I have come to what may be a painfully obvious conclusion about our world–it’s one I reached quite some time ago but have only found the words to express it now. That conclusion is: while nice guys don’t necessarily finish last, they never finish first.
Generally speaking, if you want to succeed in the world–gain power, wealth, fame, etc.–you need to be a total asshat. The rules of civil society are there to make sure sheep don’t wander off and forget to pay taxes. If you want more, you should lie, defraud, steal, and betray on a regular basis.
That’s not to say that there’s no risk involved with that course of action. A significantly larger percentage of asshats end up as tenants of our nation’s growing housing market known as the prison system than end up as, say, President.
But the risk is directly proportional to your starting social position and race–not too many rich, white asshats end up in prison. Rich, white nice people generally end up less rich, or have enough money to allow themselves the luxury of separating their behavior from their tax bracket. Noblesse oblige is a sport for only those with the oldest of money.
Take, for example, the rich white men who currently run this country. Dubya is a profligate liar, and he lies with such boldness that it has left the press stunned. He and his underlings repeat the lies so often that people end up believing them (or at least parroting them). And he’s used his bogus piety and flag waving to ensure that anyone who publicly disagrees with him will be Mao-maoed into submission.
Take, for example, the Newsweek Koran-Flushing Story. After the White house went ballistic over the story, and the right went nuts over “irresponsible journalism”, the whole thing turned out to be, well, largely true. And there hasn’t been a peep about that from the White House, really–other than the aptly named Dick Cheney saying that the detention center at Gitmo will remain open.
It’s not an ideological thing, either. Clinton was a major league asshat himself, which he covered for (like Bush does) with his aw-shucks charm. Carter was a Nice Guy elected in response to the ultimate presidential asshat (Nixon), and he got absolutely nothing done.
Then there’s the business world. Generally speaking, those who reside at the top of the corporate food chain generally get there by constantly, agressively pressing on other’s sense of propriety and discomfort with conflict. They make shit up as they go along, and then find ways to sidestep the consequences. They change plans and contend that they always had actually been aiming for their new target. They are insufferable bastards.
So, if you want to get ahead in the world, remember–it will have to be at the expense of your moral, ethical, and social comfort zones. Because only total pricks ever get to the top. But make sure you pick the right rules to break (and make sure you’re white, or rich enough that no one cares), or you’ll just end up as a cautionary tale used to keep us sheep in the pen.