The Evolution of the Asshole: Pt. IV

Introduction & Part I: Adam & Eve Were the First Assholes can be found here.
Part II: Portrait of the Asshole as a Young Artist can be found here.
Part III: Dudes (with thanks to Ian Orti) can be found here.

Many of you have written and asked what it is that makes me such an expert on Assholes. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that I am an Asshole, and that the whole series is some sort of therapeutic exercise designed to relieve guilt, I suppose making me a Self-Loathing Asshole. To those people, I say: “Thanks for your care packages and angry notes. A signed copy of Distillery Songs is in the mail.”

I don’t have a degree in Asshole, but I do have an MA in English Literature and I apprenticed under an Asshole for many many many years, so until DeVry starts handing out certificates in Asshole Studies, I’m as close as you’re going to get. So in the meantime, please find below the next step in the Evolution of the Asshole, which journeys from the Big Bang to the Apostles to Jonathan Franzen: The Egotistical Asshole.

Part IV: The Egotistical Asshole

The Egotistical Asshole has been around as long as life itself. I’m sure that right after the Big Bang, our universe was having beers with the other universes and was all, “See how big I banged there? I bang that big every time I create life,” and some other universe was all, “Oh, I was banging that big centuries ago. I’ll probably bang bigger next week,” and some other universe still was all, “I know God. We play backgammon on Thursdays.” Whatever.

It may seem at first that the idea of multiple universes is out of synch with my biblical lineage model for the discussion of the evolution of the Asshole, but not so. Bishop Étienne Tempier of Paris ruled in 1277 that God could create many universes, and in doing so overturned Aristotle’s teachings on the notion of multiple worlds. That’s some Egotistical Asshole business right there, calling bullshit on Aristotélēs.

But where do we find the first Egotistical Asshole? As with previous parts of this discussion we look to the Bible, and as with previous arguments the easy choice would be to say that Jesus was the Egotistical Asshole. It would be a reasonable assumption, given that he embodies all of the elements of the Egotistical Asshole: vanity, narcissism, open toed footwear.

But the first Egotistical Asshole was not Jesus, but rather his three buddies in the back of the crowd whispering, “Fuck that. I mean, anyone can preach. I can preach. I know all this shit. I own a robe. I own sandals. I actually told him all this shit. I wrote half of this preach yesterday while we were drinking this wine that J made.” The three were, of course, the Apostles Peter, James, and John, who along with Jesus were the cool kids back in the Golden Age of new Christianity. The four were inseparable, an entourage before anyone even had entourages. They were the perfect quartet, the ideal number for a game of euchre, good young boys rocking Jerusalem out with their cocks out. Their parents were proud (well, maybe not Joseph so much.) When the four of them went to parties, they always snuck into a backroom to drink the good wine, not the horse piss vinegar that Jesus made from water. Then, we all know that happened:

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The Evolution of the Asshole: Pt. III

Introduction & Part I: Adam & Eve Were the First Assholes can be found here.
Part II: Portrait of the Asshole as a Young Artist can be found here.

Part III could not have been completed without the invaluable input and collaboration of Ian Orti, the author of The Olive and the Dawn and L: and things come apart. He can be found here. You want to go to there. He’s giving stuff away.

A quick review for those who have just joined the discussion (though if you weren’t such an Asshole, you’d click the links above and read the first two essays. But, whatever. Asshole.) Adam and Eve were in the garden, they were assholes, then some asshole started painting on cave walls and writing poems and dancing, then came the Renaissance, then Foucault birthed MFA programs, pulling all sorts of Assholes from their parents sweaty basements and into universities where their Assholeness was given a diploma.

So, where to now? Evolution is a scattered beast. Even Darwin will tell you that back in the day amoebae were popping out of the ocean and becoming monkeys all over the place. That’s why we have different races and animals. And Russians. While some breeds of Asshole were popping up in 14th century France, there were different species of Assholes pulling their DNA from apes all over the planet, and perhaps on Mars. Of particular note were well known Assholes such as the Kangaroo Island Emu, the Pallid Beach Mouse, the Stephens family of Crawfordville, Georgia, and the aforementioned Russians.

But when considering the Asshole, it’s important that we discuss Assholes that were evolving simultaneously around the world, not just in Russia. One of these species of Asshole, though showing origins in many different locales, became a prominent Asshole in the west, and in particular in the past half-century in the United States, Canada, and parts of Colombia. Its origins are muddled. Some in the scientific community believe the first evidence can be found in non-avian theropod dinosaurs. Other contend that it can be traced to dolphins, orcas, lions, the Harris Hawk, or perhaps crocodiles. All can agree that this species of Asshole is a pack hunter. I am speaking, of course, of Dudes.

Part III: Dudes

It’s very important that we are able to differentiate between a dude, or the dude, and Dudes. Separate the dude from the dudes, the wolf from the pack, the man from the men, the Jeff Lebowskis from the Jackie Treehorns. Intriguingly, they have very little in common besides etymology. A dude is your buddy who feely buys rounds of drinks, reads Yeats, and digs Uncle Tupelo. A dude is a girl friend who sets you up with her cool friend and tells you your poetry is boss. A dude takes you to the bar at two in the afternoon on a Tuesday because you need it. A dude abides. Dudes travel in packs and treat objects like women, man.

The first evidence of Dudes is likely in the first Asshole Adam and the serpent. It’s hard to know for sure. It’s pretty much universally understood that Dudes travel in at least packs of three. The Magi were certainly Dudes. Back-up singers. Blind mice. And of course are prominent in Arthurian legend.

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table were Dudes, evidenced by their perpetuated and exaggerated existence through folklore. Also, they dug hanging out in a group, had their own clubhouse, and wore similar outfits. The Knights of the Round Table were the house league hockey team of its day, and participated in activities of Dudes such as homoerotic hazing, watching pornography as a group, and eating fried foods. King Arthur was their Alpha Male, and within most construct of Dudes, and Alpha Male can be found. And, it goes without saying but, Alpha Males are Assholes.

“Three Blind Mice” is the nursery rhyme of Dudes, and represents one of the first known gospels of Dudes. The rhyme’s inspiration was born of the reign of Queen Mary, and specifically her burning the Oxford martyrs at the stake for heresy. Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, were all Dudes. They were Dudes in that they were enablers, promoting and supporting the activity of Dudes such as philandering, divorce, Royal Supremacy, clerical celibacy, and incorrectly citing the Bible to make your point. These activities became the foundation for many contemporary elements of being Dudes.

Furthermore, the passing down from generation to generation of “Three Blind Mice” is a manifestation of the folklore nature of the Dudes, for Dudes require lineage and tradition as both an affirmation of their Asshole ways and a means of perpetuating the species. (This is why the modern Dudes can be found in frat houses, Boston Pizzas, and on hockey teams, but more on that below.) Consider:

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

The mice, traveling in threes as Dudes, need to be seen, and celebrated for simply being. “See how they run, see how they run,” is documentation of how Dudes need attention. Additionally, they’re after the farmer’s wife, because Dudes are philanderers. Fortunately, the farmer’s wife (read: Queen Mary) is a dude and takes care of business.

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The Evolution of the Asshole: Pt. II

Introduction & Part I: Adam & Eve Were the First Assholes can be found here.

So, to review, the first Assholes were Adam and Eve, and really (in terms of a biblical lineage) established a baseline for Assholes. It would have been easy to continue with Assholes of the Bible. That text is wall to wall Assholes. It’s like being in general admission at a Creed concert or a Queen’s University keg party. I mean, Noah and his arc and his strict rule of two. Must’ve sucked to be that third rhinoceros, punished to death by drowning just for being single. And the Magi? Like, whose idea was the frankincense and myrrh? Were they going to get stoned with the baby Jesus and listen to Dead bootlegs? Joseph and his “I didn’t do it” schtick. Judas, of course, and then pretty much everyone in the New Testament. It would be silly for me to go through the entire Bible, then the Koran, pointing out every instance of Asshole. It would make me an Asshole, and frankly I just don’t have the time, and to be honest I’m somewhat afraid of smiting.

Where to next you ask? Where did the Asshole go in the early ADs? My research may surprise you. Or, my interns’ research that is. (A few of them came back over the weekend. I figured out how they can receive course credit. Kind of.) Once a religious template existed, once the Book was written and asked to be followed, once society began to construct itself under the influence of speculative fiction, the natural course was to expect artistic expression of faith and modernity, and with it comes our next Asshole: the petulant and unseasoned artist.

Part II: Portrait of the Asshole as a Young Artist

Even before the Bible made painting dudes with beards surrounded by half-naked angels cool, the young artist was a well-established Asshole. In the earliest days of man, some poor father of troglodyte adolescents would come home from battling sabre tooth tigers and predatory birds for food for his family, staggering along, bruised and bludgeoned, often missing limbs and on the verge of death, to find his young offspring had spent the day not sewing loin cloths or tending to the fire as asked, but rather having painted on the homestead’s walls. The father would get angry, and the young artist would storm off, screaming about how they don’t like to be told how to feel, and how no one gets them, and how contribution can’t be measured by fire, and why do we have to quantify everything anyway, and why on games night it totally sucks that no one ever wants to play charades.

The wall paintings got weirder, more abstract. One day, in order to even view the blood and feces smeared on the wall in representation of the gods, you had to pay three pelts and bird’s eye. Visual art was born, and it had been born of young artistic Assholes. The “artist” started wearing his loin cloth inside out and smoking cloves. He stopped eating meat. He laughed at his parents, and their ancient ways. Hunting and gathering was so over, he argued. He often danced to music only he could hear, telling his parents afterwards that the dancing was his feelings and if they didn’t get it then they didn’t get him, inadvertently giving birth to interpretive dance and driving his folks crazy. He talked about moving to a loft cave in the next village over, where all his friends lived. When asked who these friends were, he’d roll his eyes, saying “oh, you don’t know them” and giggling to himself.

This sort of petulant nonsense went on for centuries, and in the earliest days of what we would come to know as art, all artists were by definition young. A few years after the Bible, some kid who refused to learn a respectable trade decided to write a second book which was highly experimental, substituting vowels for consonants and spelling God with a lower case ‘g’, but completely derivative of the Bible itself. It received poor reviews, and even worse sales. Somehow the writer convinced a few poor souls with low self-esteem and too much time on their hands to celebrate the book privately, in clandestine meetings, and in turn those kids started to write books that were equally experimental, and equally derivative of the Bible, but now they had a gang to pat each other on the back, and, well, literature was born, and from the get go it was led by these young Assholes.

As soon as there was literature, you had to know that someone was going to option it and adapt a play. This gave birth to a whole knew breed of young artistic Assholes: the playwright, the director, the set decorator, and of course the actor. Stages were erected, costumes fashioned, tantrums thrown, and understudies discovered jealousy. At first the plays were quite good, often funny, and tended not to stray too much from the source material. But soon after, the playwrights began to write their own plays, angering the writers who had lost a good revenue stream. The actors acquired a moderate degree of fame, and began to use that fame to assert influence on the productions. The playwrights retaliated by writing material that was less and less marketable with limited appeal to broad audiences. The directors sided with the actors, though would come to regret it the day some actor whispered to a friend “what I really want to do is direct.” Theatre had arrived, and with it a gaggle of Assholes.

Fortunately for all of us the Renaissance came along, and provided a cultural rebirth, a movement under which art could thrive. Disciplines became more informed, and with it art flourished. It was a golden age, and while there were still Assholes, their voices were tempered by the majesty of creation, by the hurried excitement of cultural revolution. Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, made the world forget that the first man had been such an Asshole, not just a watershed moment in cultural evolution, but in the evolution of Assholes as well. When the Renaissance spread to England it bore Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Sir Thomas More, John Milton, and William Shakespeare. Literature now had direction, and the Assholes were quieted. Things were good. The French got ballet up and running, and though it would later lead to many an Asshole, it was pretty boss in the early days. With the advent of the printing press, music got out of the heads of petulant artists and the church, into the hands of the people, eventually leading to the formation of The Band in Toronto in the 1965.

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The Evolution of the Asshole: Pt. I

I’ve had the quiet pleasure of knowing many an Asshole in my days, and from time to time have been labeled one myself. Earlier this week I was hanging out at the park, trading belts of whiskey from my flask with my 5-year-old nephew Finn and pointing out to him the attributes of Assholes amongst the kids on the play structure.  He’s too young to show how to throw a curveball, he has no interest in alt-country, and he finds my writing derivative of early Hunter S. Thompson, so this is the only gift I have to share with him. And as I told Finny why the kid with the bowl cut was trouble, and how from time to time certain girls can be icky, and what happens when he’s rubber, and some little prick is glue, it occurred to me that it was time that I had a more in-depth look at the Asshole.

I’m not sure when I met my first Asshole, and I’m sure I was blissfully unaware of it at the time. Perhaps it was my kindergarten 4 teacher, Mrs. Cadieux, who told my parents I may be retarded (her word, not mine, I’m not being an insensitive Asshole) because I couldn’t jump. She said that I’d just swing my arms upwards, yet my feet would remain firmly planted on the ground. Turns out Mrs. Cadiuex had mental problems, though I never have had much of a vertical.

I don’t believe you become acutely aware of Assholes until you’re about 10 or 11 years old, right about the time the word itself becomes an important part of your vernacular’s arsenal. Around that time, it’s likely a schoolyard bully or the smartass teenager who works at the corner store. More than likely, and in retrospect, it’s a close friend who’s an Asshole. When you enter your teens, it’s all Assholes. You, in particular, are the worst offender. Ask your parents, they know what I’m talking about.

Right around that time you are introduced to alcohol, the great Asshole enhancer, and things go full Asshole for a few years. At some point, you’ll need to get a job to pay for the booze so that your teen years and early 20s maintain a certain level of Assholedom. This is where you’ll meet the Asshole of Assholes, your boss. I’ve worked for some Assholes, Assholes who make other Assholes look like Santa Claus, and I have the court records to prove it. Then of course comes university, where Assholes are bred. Jocks, Profs, TAs, people who go to McGill, and certainly grad students, about whom I’ve written previously.

When you decide to become a writer, you invite a certain amount of Assholes into your life. Other writers make up the largest part of this demographic, in particular poets and spoken word artists. Inevitably you publish, which introduces you to the Reviewer, not an Asshole by nature, but an Asshole nonetheless. They’re part critic, part ad copy writer, part failed something, and all judgment.

Of course, the internet bred a whole new kind of Asshole. Hell, part of my inspiration to write this piece was so that from now on whenever some googles my name and “Asshole” they’ll end up here, which is totally self-serving and makes me a bit of an Asshole. I’ve been called worse than an Asshole online. One woman called me a “misogynist who runs a harem of interns” which hurt because, one, it wasn’t true, and two, my mother read it. This was on Facebook, where the Asshole has burrowed in and found a home for eternity. And now through the advent of the Facebook timeline, we can trace the evolution of many an Asshole, which in and of itself was encouragement enough to write a series of pieces on the evolution of the Asshole. It aims to be an organic discussion of the Asshole, where the Asshole came from, where the Asshole is now, and where the Asshole plans on going in the future. (My money is on Russia, but I’ve got some inside information.) From time to time I may even invite some peers to add to the discussion, expand the breadth of my understanding of the Asshole. I know, it’s an ambitious project, but given the wealth of my experience with Assholes, I feel it’s important to share, to give, to perhaps create a whole new discipline of Asshole academia, or perhaps just come across as an Asshole.

First, it is important that we establish a common definition of Asshole. The Oxford English Dictionary, appropriately the official dictionary of Assholes, describes the Asshole as “a stupid, irritating, or contemptible person.” Wiktionary, the official dictionary of the lazy Asshole goes further: “A jerk; an inappropriately or objectionably mean, inconsiderate, contemptible, obnoxious, intrusive, or rude person.” For the purposes of this argument, I’d like to wrap these two definitions in a cardigan of righteousness and outfit it with an ironic moustache. Within all likelihood, its favourite music is electro-synth pop. It likes a band you’ve never heard of. It is not evil, per se.

The Asshole is as old as the universe itself, of course, and I would imagine that just after the Big Bang, one organism was a total dick to another organism. And it would not surprise me to discover that the Pachyrhinosaurus was well known for belittling other ceratopsid purely on the basis of subtle differences. And dinosaurs begat fossil fuels which begat oil which begat a whole slew of Assholedom. With the research involved it would be difficult to trace the entirety of the evolution of the Asshole, especially following the departure of my interns after they found a copy of my MA thesis: “Why You Should Never Ever Ever for Any Reason Be An Intern: Getting Paid for Work in the Arts.”  And even though I am a recovering aetheist, for the purposes of this argument I believe it is best if we follow a biblical lineage.

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