On the Berkeley campus, it’s hard to be a misanthrope. Everyone is constantly accosting you. It became clear about twelve minutes into my tenure at Berkeley that it was going to be mighty difficult to get people to leave me alone, and yet avoid retreating to a cabin in Montana and start blowing up people with better personal hygiene than myself.
So I came up with various self-defense mechanisms in order to protect myself from the obnoxious masses of the righteous. Now, I will impart my techniques onto the masses. I know, I’m too good to you. That you learn something by the end is all the gratification I require.
Rule 1: Say Exactly What You Are Thinking. This means don’t hold back. Take that little cricket who’s always telling you “Oh golly you can’t say that!” and bite off his top-hat-wearing, Bing-Crosby-sounding, not-enough-legs-for-a-goddamn-cricket head. Now say what you’ve always wanted to say, but were always hindered by “manners” and “tact.”
Here’s a sample exchange:
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Save the environment.”
“Ah. Thank you for stating the mind-numbingly obvious for me. I didn’t realize I was talking to a raving idiot. Do you have anything more to offer, or can I go back to a more effective use of my time, like slamming my head into concrete until I reach the level of intelligence that you evoke so effortlessly?”
See how easy that was?
The previous exchange also clearly evinces Rule 2, namely: Be Polite. Most people are quite taken aback by someone who clearly despises them, but still takes the time to toss in a “please,” or “I’m sorry.” Compare and contrast the following:
“Shut up. I don’t like you.”
“I’m sorry, but you make me fear for the future of this nation – nay, the world. Please don’t push me towards suicide by forcing me to listen to you any longer.”
Rule 3 is: Pick Your Words Carefully. Do not swear. Anyone can shrug off being called a “fucking idiot.” Very few can shrug off something like “I would rather be talking to just about anyone else right now.” It also helps to use phrases that most people do not use in everyday conversation. Good choices include: “mind-numbing,” “putrescence,” “flaccid,” “ostensibly,” and “Betcha-bite-a-chip.” Actually, I guess I’ve never had call to use that last one, but you can imagine how devastating it would be. Well, I can, anyway.
The most important of all the rules (except for “Don’t Succumb to the Dark Side,” which is a subject for another column) is Rule 4, which goes as follows: Don’t Get Emotional. Sometimes it’s hard, especially if you make your opponent cry, but don’t get flustered, or else they won’t go away. You must remain calm, cool, and distant. Getting angry or feeling pity will only lead you to violate Rule 3, and we can’t have that, can we? Clearly.
Let’s see a few examples of generic responses:
“I’m sorry, but could you tell me what it was about what I just suggested that I wanted your opinion? I wouldn’t want to make that mistake again.”
Or how about: “Pardon me, but is there something I could say that would make you turn around and walk away right now, and if so, how much money would it take to get you to tell me what it is?”
Perhaps: “Thank you, sir. I had almost convinced myself that most people thought before speaking. It’s good to have an idyllic world view shattered every now and again.”
So, you can see, with these few simple rules you can repel any unwanted excahnge. You, too can be a misanthrope. And I didn’t even charge you.