When our daughters were very young, my wife and I tried to teach them to live by the Golden Rule. Apparently, “treat others the way you want to be treated” is open to interpretation. Thinking we might have gone a little too wordy, we simplified our house rule to “be nice” and subsequently learned that, too, is fraught with ambiguity. A little over three years ago, we experienced a particularly fun episode where “be nice” was construed to mean “say the meanest shit you can possibly think of to your sister, as loudly as possible, while stomping your feet and slamming doors.” I decided to respond by “being nice” as well — I completely lost my shit, blindly screamed profanities at everyone in the house (wife and both dogs included), and told both of our children (10 and 13 at the time) they were acting like assholes. Then I had an epiphany and unilaterally amended our house rule to “Don’t Be an Asshole.” It stuck.
Implementation of the rule has improved our familial harmony tremendously. At our house, if you act like an asshole, you get shunned until you un-asshole yourself. The Rule is egalitarian, simple, to the point, and not really open for interpretation: pretty much everyone can agree when someone is objectively being an asshole. Moreover, whether any of us would admit it or not, I’m pretty sure we know when we are being an asshole and, thus, in violation of The Rule and subject to shunning which seems to lead to moderation in behavior.
Given our family success with The Rule, it occurs to me The Rule might work in wider application. I’m thinking The Defeating Utter Misery Bred by Assholes & Shunning Stupidity Act of 2020 (“The DUMBASS Act”) is federal legislation we should all get behind. Congress could pass a law that prohibits all public assholery and impose a duty of mandatory shunning by all who publicly encounter a violator. Shunning would include commercial ventures so all service industry employees, flight attendants, store clerks, Uber drivers, etc.* would be legally required to ignore anyone who acts like an asshole. In the legal profession, the impact would be dramatic: thousands of lawyers would be required to somehow bill for services rendered while simultaneously ignoring and being ignored by everyone around them.
The U.S. Capitol and various state capitols could become temples of silence — I’m thinking something like A Quiet Place, hopefully complete with the monsters.
But think about this, if we were bound by The DUMBASS Act, people might become more self-aware and maybe, just maybe, we as a society could figure out how to treat each other a little better, or at least keep the more asshole angels of our nature under wraps.
*Designers who work for lawyers