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Hi Professor Sutton,

A classic question indeed - although, I thought you brought this topic up once before a couple of months ago. Its essentially the classic question that religions have sought to go after - what is the moral response to injustice? There are 2 schools:

1) Ahimsa/turning the other cheek
2) Revenge/jihad/tit-for-tat

The truth is that I think the optimal strategy really depends on the nature of the asshole. There are indeed 2 different kinds of assholes:

1) The temporarily agitated/weakened/ignorant/self-conscious individual who's ill ways can be reformed <- strategy 1 is optimal, because strategy 2 will simply continue to provoke the individual. Great examples are civil rights movements.

2) The chemically/emotionally/physically unbalanced, unevolved, ill person whose only hope of reform is through punishment. Great examples are animals.

I think deciphering whether you have a Type 1 or Type 2 asshole, and then reacting accordingly, is a key part of human judgement.

Ed Markey

Steve Yastrow followed suit today (June 11) with this post. Timely!


As an employee who is currently in a situation trapped working for an asshole -- a paranoid asshole, at that -- I've been actively trying to cultivate my indifference. It's really, /really/ difficult, though! And there don't seem to be resources for learning that skill... at least, not like there are for learning how to be perky or empassioned or other positive virtues. I'm drawing a blank, really. Does anyone have anything they can recommend as good for learning to not care so much anymore? It would make working for a hostile person so much better if I could learn to give up.


If one could aspire to being a Bodhisattva warrior in the real world one wouldn't let anger, often a natural and reasonable reaction to bad behavior, fester. BUT one would take action to correct that bad behavior in the interests of the greater good. Again without getting emotionally hooked and committed. For your examples Ms. Lupone's explosion was the result of accumulated festering while Ms. Feldschuh's balanced response moved beyond that but doesn't address the greater problem. Would it be possible to combine the two ? Alas most of us are doing well to simply get to the point where it doesn't eat away at us. Look at the Dalai Lama's life - he's probably done as much as anybody to create interest in the new cognitive neurosciences thru a patient attempt to explore and reconcile science and religion, to introduce Buddhism to the West and yet, after 50 years of sustained, patient effort is likely to to his grave without persuading the Chinese gov't to take a reasonable stance toward Tibetan autonomy; the great goal of his secular life.

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