Ethics of being mean

A few people have confronted me lately about my attitude.

It’s interesting right now because we just had our annual sexual harassment training  and we had just been talking about sensitivity and people’s comfort so I have to think about my ethics.

Now it’s easy to vibe someone out when I’m flirting or comforting someone who’s upset, there’s a goal I’m consciously working toward and my attitude can be an impediment to that goal so I have the internal motivation to be empathetic, to be tender.

But what about situations where I don’t care? Is it unethical of me not to be sensitive? And how exhausting would it be to try and care about everyone?

It’s easy to say we should all be nice to each other but what we really mean is we should act nice. When people talk about bare-minimum respect it’s about treating people you don’t care about as if you do just a little bit.

Meanwhile being comfortable means being yourself and not having to act.

So if someone is acting nice to me and I’m not acting back but rather just being myself is that selfish of me? Is the performance of politeness – without real empathy – that much of a social obligation that we have to surrender our egos to it?

And if we’re talking about comfort why should the comfort of the nice be valued more than the comfort of the mean?

I think acceptance comes into this. I have people in my life who actually love me and I know they do because they accept what I’m actually like. They don’t think that they love me despite my behaviour, they don’t want to fix or change me, they don’t think I’m “good person” “deep down” who’s merely acting inconsiderate – they understand that this is me.

And I do the same for people I care about. I’m thinking of one friend in particular who takes a lot of criticism for her chaotic, tempestuous mood swings and it never bothers me, I’ve never taken it personally if she’s snapped at me because I know it’s not truly at me. I can patiently make room for the complicated feelings of my friends, that’s what friends do.

It’s my absolutist mindset kicking in as usual too, I either care about someone or I don’t care at all, not even enough to pretend I care. I spin a few plates very diligently and let the others fall. And I’m fine with it, I have no craving to be thought of as nice by anyone I wouldn’t want speaking at my funeral. Rather have a few deeply rewarding honest relationships that happen effortlessly than constantly have to suck it up and tolerate shitty people for no real gain. For punishment in fact because being nice to shitty people makes them keep talking to you.

Sadly so does being mean because instead of accepting me and/or taking a fucking hint people want to have serious talks about my attitude.


Singer/songwriter, jerk.

Posted in Pragmatism
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