It's funny how, when a topic is raised with me by one person, a few others are quick to bring it up too. Several people recently talked with me about this, and I want to just get my view on the matter out there now.
Let me just be brutal about this. One of my key tenets of writing, and just of going through life in general, is that everyone has a story, and a little understanding goes a long way to making the world a better place. However, some people take some notions of subjectivism well beyond reason and into the realm of pseudo-enlightened, pseudo-intellectual fairyland.
The thing that bothers me is when people say "there are no assholes, bad-guys or monsters in this world" or, less irritatingly, "nobody thinks of themselves as such."
I would like to unequivocally contradict those people out there. There are assholes, monsters, bad-guys and worse in this world, and some of them are quite aware of their asshole status, but don't give a fuck what you think.
Pop-culture has even made it "cool." "Asshole" has been conflated with "bad-ass", with the implicit notion that the niceties of culture - basic manners, consideration, kindness - are foolish, weak, counter-productive and/or some kind of inhibition against being a bad-ass (because you never meet polite SF operators, no). You can't be competent, effective and strong if you're lugging around the useless luggage of compassion or professional courtesy!
On the net, the problem is even worse. Most trolls, such as those inspired by the antics on 4Chan, think that being an asshole is great fun, and the worse they are, the more respect they feel they command. Assholes, and general negativity, is fostered by many internet communities. Not to say that these arrogant "the fuck you gonna do about it?" cunts don't exist in real life, I'm just saying there's a difference between suffering an asshole on the street and knowing that his anti-social behavior would be applauded by douchebags on the internet.
Frankly, I don't think I need to belabor this one too much. There are assholes who, if they don't consider themselves as utter assholes and not care (there are some), at least are shameless about engaging in asshole-ish behavior. They don't give a fuck, they don't care about you or what you think of them.
I'm not trying to paint a gloomy picture of the world or humanity. Most people are not assholes, and as a general rule it's good to remember that some people have justification for what they do. Putting yourself in their shoes is a good thought exercise, and they should do it too. But make no mistake, there are people out there who outright do not care about how their actions hurt others - there are selfish, narcissistic cunts out there, I'm sorry.
Ultimately, yes, nobody thinks of themselves as "an asshole." But these people don't think of themselves as good people either. Because they don't care, or their selfish/aggressive/whatever behavior has been encouraged. They don't have to call themselves that and act to deliberately achieve some sort of "asshole quotient". I don't understand the logic behind saying that, from that fact, there are no bad people who don't act unjustifiably cruel or inconsiderately towards others.
As a friend of mine likes to say: a person who abuses their partner or child doesn't have it all pre-planned. They don't have a schedule, or a desire to be achieve the status of "child beater". They don't say they'll put the car in for a wash at 4pm, get home by 5pm, have their dinner then spend from 7-8 beating their daughter with a pipe. So, by that definition, they're not an asshole... uh? But because they see nothing wrong with hurting another, because they don't think about it, don't care about it, or at least make no effort to stop themselves doing it for whatever reason, they are. That's an asshole, they exist by the fucking thousands.
Not everyone has that empathy or consideration that these ultra-relativists think everyone has.
"Monsters" or "evil" people quite sadly also exist. Consider those involved in the smuggling of persons, of rape, or of pointless torture and killing. The typical belief is that they "must justify it to themselves" or otherwise secretly hate what they do. This belief is frankly naive.
There's another way to deal with doing something horrible: not caring about it. To some, it comes naturally, and those people are monsters. What they do does not bother them; those people exist. The deliberate harm or neglect of your fellow man is categorically evil. Unless you're killing a person to prevent a nuclear explosion from killing six thousand, but, funnily enough, most of the time that's not the situation. Of course, this is ignoring the existence of someone who outright enjoys hurting others, and they exist too. Just because they won't gleefully clap their hands and call themselves evil doesn't mean that they are not.
OK, now, mostly this is just philosophy. In my writing, which sparks these discussions more often than not, I try to mostly present some characters as assholes, but then show a hitherto unmentioned background that explains or justifies their actions, or at least shows them as human (despite them ironically being non-humans). A major belief of mine, with story writing and character conception, is that everyone has a story of some kind. They rarely are two-dimensional, or just plain assholes. They have a reason for what they do and how they act. So I understand where these people are coming from very, very well, possibly better than they do due to my own experiences.
But I also do mix in a few complete monsters from time to time, because those fuckers DO exist. Sociopaths or others who, conditionally or consistently, do not give a fuck about others are going to be either assholes or monsters, depending on just how far they're willing/able to push their inconsiderate behavior. I don't care whether they call themselves that, or if they deliberately try to be evil. That's not relevant. Most them simply don't give a fuck, and it's that that makes them scum. They exist. Thankfully, they're quite rare.
On a side note, a few examples from my own stories. Darron, Wayle (from Tai's Story), the lynx guard, Adam and even Nick* (from Astray) are not intended to be complete monsters or inconsiderate assholes. Regardless of how I initially portray them. Marco, as well as several others involved in the criminal syndicate (from TS) and Nick's mother (Astray) are.
Because you can't kidnap someone for sex or worse, or punch a little kid in the face, and tell me you're not a monstrous asshole. Not without me nostril-fucking you with a shotgun.
Oh, before I shut up. What inspired me to write this at last? Reading an article on Bikers Against Child Abuse. The club was started because of an 8 year old boy who was being harassed by his abuser(s), who would leave him notes, overtly watch and threaten him, and generally just tried to keep him perpetually terrified. There is ZERO justification, ZERO humanity even, in doing something like that to an eight-year-old, and this is after abusing him for months. Whether it's due to insanity, sociopathy, or deliberate cruelty, that's an example of a monstrous asshole.
Incidentally, this isn't a call for flames or arguments. I know at least one person will think this journal is a "reply" to them or something. It isn't. I'm not having a go at anyone, I'm just putting out my beliefs on the matter because it's an interesting topic. Relativism, when pushed to its extremes and particularly when it has been used as an excuse, has annoyed the fuck out of me for years, and I consider it the mark of a pseudo-intellectual that lives in a world of gumdrops and candy (or no true responsibility/consideration to their fellow man).
Hey, Star Trek? Take your prime directive and fucking choke on it...