I started looking for websites about misanthropy
June 1, 2000 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I started looking for websites about misanthropy after my wife told me about this incredibly unfriendly guy at her office. Both my wife and this guy are artists/temps--she is an actress/secretary and the guy is a director/document operator. Like many New York artists, they support themselves with corporate day jobs. Anyway, whenever she walks into the document center (where he works) and says "hi," everyone there says "hi" back--except this guy, who doesn't even look up... (more>>)
posted by grumblebee (29 comments total)
When she asked one of his office-mates what his problem was, she was told that he acts like this towards everyone. He is an artist, and he only works in an office to support himself. He doesn't want the corporate environment to take over any more of his life than it absolutely has to, so he chooses to remove himself as much as possible.

My wife, who would also like to remove herself from corporate life, found this rude and snobbish.

I find it rude--but not necessarily snobbish. "Snobbish" implies that he thinks that, as an artist, he is better than the corporate types he is forced to see everyday. Of course, this might be true. But it's possible that he is simply trying to save himself from pain.

I mentioned this theory to my wife, and she asked "what's so painful about saying hello?" It's hard for me to explain, but sometimes it IS painful to say hello. Partly, this is a gender difference. As a rule, girls are much more social than boys, and most girl's I've met can't invision being in a room with someone without having SOME sort of interaction with them.

In any case, I am interested in your reactions to this guy. Do any of you know real misanthropes? Are any of you misanthropic? Do you think misanthropy is a disease, a choice, or a natural reaction to the hell of living with other people?

(Oh, and here are some other links.)
posted by grumblebee at 12:24 PM on June 1, 2000

you forgot about misanthrope.org!

hey maybe the guy is just shy.
posted by andy at 12:43 PM on June 1, 2000

Uh...I'm not quite sure what the problem is. It's the "overly friendly" guys in my wife's job that I want to take out (and I *don't* mean "to lunch").

posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 12:54 PM on June 1, 2000

It's just the way some people are.
posted by corpse at 2:03 PM on June 1, 2000

He's no misanthrope... just grumpy. HERE is a true misanthrope I can't find a single statement on this site that I can disagree with... but I do lift my head to greet others (most of the time)
posted by chiXy at 2:04 PM on June 1, 2000

I'd actually rather have it that people didn't say Hello to me at work. I just like to come in, sit down, do my work, and not be bothered.

Why I don't like to bothered I'm not sure. I think it has to do with how well I know someone. I do have friends at work, and I talk to them a lot, just chatting, but with the people I haven't had that sort of thing with, I'd rather not have small talk with them. I feel uncomfortable I guess. I really never know what to say, or what they expect me to say when they ask "So how are you doing?".

I don't want to be rude to anyone, nor do I feel I'm better than anyone (far from it). It's more that I don't want to come off as a dumbass so I usually just don't get involved in conversation like that very much.

This is definitly more of a problem with me, than me having a problem with anyone else, I'll admit that.
posted by vitaflo at 2:05 PM on June 1, 2000

I don't mind initial hellos in the morning, but when I have to say hi to the same person 4 or 5 times in a day, just because I see them outside the building pulling in from lunch, or in the lunch room, it really starts to irritate me.

I said hello 3 hours ago, it's still in effect, darn it! It just seems like a complete and utter waste of sound. :-)
posted by cCranium at 3:00 PM on June 1, 2000

I think he's a jerk to be this way around people who DO want to work there. If he doesn't want to be in that environment then he should get out! The way things are, he's just trying to drag everyone else into his little soap opera.

And that's what it is. His little soap opera. Leave me and my family out of it.

"so he chooses to remove himself as much as possible." Good! So remove yourself already.

If you don't want to work for a corporation then DON'T! If you're there, it's by choice. The idea that he has to do this to support himself is retarded. Plenty of people don't work in corporate environments. He chose this career and now he doesn't like the fact that he has to actually work? Lame. You wife is right. I would totally be saying hi to him several times a day. "Hi Bob" "How's your work Bob?" "Can I ask you something Bob?" "Welcome to the real world Bob"

I have a problem with fellow employees that want to make everyone else part of their little drama. I say mess with the guy's carefully constructed fantasy world.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:18 PM on June 1, 2000

y6y6y6? I think you miss the point. This individual wants to be out of the corporate atmosphere and do his art. However, in today's society art only makes money for most when they make square pegs fit round holes and try to survive the corporate atmosphere. If you want a steady paycheck, you have to fit their mold. No one said you have to like it.

When people I don't know very well walk by me at work and say, "hey how you doin'?" my generic response is, "I'm awake." I think that's about as misanthropic as one can sufficiently get in the corporate atmosphere and still keep their job. They don't want to know how I'm doing. They don't want to be thrust into my personal little soap opera, and I don't want them in there. At one time, in order to amuse myself, I used to launch into a soliloquy when people would ask me how I'm doing, just to see that look of disgust on their face which basically said, "gee I didn't really want to know how you're doing it's just socially acceptable to ask and then it's socially acceptable for you to say, 'okay' or 'fine' or 'I'm doing great how are you?' and leave it at that so I can launch into a little soliloquy and annoy you if I want but really I didn't want to know how you're doing." So why do they ask?

I respect people who just give me a pez when they walk by. That's about all I want from most people: a simple pez and then walk back out of my life. Leave me to my little soap opera and you go on with yours.

As for this true Misanthrope... I think I'm in love [insert sappy hearts and puppy dog eyes here].
posted by ZachsMind at 3:47 PM on June 1, 2000

Gee, y6y6y6 -- you sure are reading a lot in a person not saying hello to people. I wish I had known it was so easy to piss off my coworkers at some of the drudgework jobs I have held over the years.
posted by rcade at 4:32 PM on June 1, 2000

wow, i'm glad i don't work with all you misanthropic people!
posted by palegirl at 7:13 PM on June 1, 2000

Hi!Hi!Hi!HI!!!! Are you misanthropes squirming yet? This is grumblebee's wife, and I just wanted to add something to what my husband said. As an actress/secretary in NYC, I do, of course, run across a lot of people in my situation. They're working full time jobs during the day and pursuing their art at night and on the weekends. It can be exhausting, and the corporate environment can grind you down, no doubt about it. My problem with many of my fellow artists is that they're not just choosing to separate themselves from an "environment." It's too easy to say that. By using the word "environment" instead of "people" they're just thinly disguising what is in fact a form of classism. They're separating themselves from other human beings who work these corporate jobs and don't pursue another career in their free time - I'm talking about the career secretaries and other people who are just trying to support their families. Not everyone defines themselves through their work. Some put family at the center of their lives, others put their social life, whatever - you get the idea. And these artists don't isolate themselves so they can spend more time memorizing lines or analyzing scripts. In fact, the guy in question is just flipping through magazines or talking on the phone (presumably to the other artists in his life) whenever he has a free moment. I believe they isolate themselves for fear that if they make any sort of real contact with those outside their esoteric little bubbles, they'll somehow be contaminated. I know it sounds dramatic, but bear with me. For so many artists, often what is more important than the art itself is just making sure everybody damn well knows you're a artist. It's unfortunate that people like this guy cut themselves off from so many experiences, because by limiting themselves to social interactions with their "own kind," they are also limiting themselves as artists.

Another thing - the area this guy works in is one fairly small room with three other people. Everyone gives each other space. For instance, if you finish your work and you want to read a book, no one will interrupt you. They respect each other, but they are also friendly when they sense it will be appreciated. Also, they are some of the kindest people I've ever met, and I believe they honestly mean it when they say "hey, how you doin." But maybe I'm just a Pollyanna.
posted by grumblebee at 7:52 PM on June 1, 2000

Well, I'm a Misanthrope. I hate people. I hate their hideous breathing in the same place as me, I hate their pathetic "How you doings?" when they really don't want an honest answer, I hate the constant spawning and sweating and digesting and in general, if I could put potent drugs into the water supply of the planet Earth that would sterilize 9/10s of the human race, I'd do it in a fortnight. In the words of Bill 'My Savior' Hicks, I'm tired of this back-slapping 'Ain't humanity neat' bullshit. We're a virus with shoes.

I don't pretend to be much better, myself. We can't even get together as a race and stop dumping our filth or slashing and burning the sources of our oxygen, so forgive me if I don't think too highly of us. We're psychotic chimps with low attention spans and super-gigantic egos. All the vast potential of that crennalated big of neural tissue in our skulls, and we waste it on crap like Who wants to debase themselves for money? We are not special. We are not miracles. Nothing so incredibly easy to create is a miracle. Nothing so intensely, wantonly self-destructive is special. Lemmings are more special than we are. The HIV virus is more cuddly.

Any outsider, looking at the effects of the human animal on the rest of the species we share this planet with, would be appalled. Since the time of Christ, humans have exterminated at least two percent of the known species of the world's mammals, and we're related to them. More than half of those extinctions have taken place since 1900, and the rate at which man is exterminating mammals has increased fifty fold in the last century and a half. (My source on this is Panati's Extraordinary Endings which may be out of date, and The Red Date Book)

Ask Steller's Sea Cow what it thinks of mankind. Oh, wait, you can't...we hacked them all to death because they tasted like beef and had tits, convincing some idiot mariners that they were succubi. Well, maybe you could ask the Moa...no, wait, you can't. The Maori killed them off in the sixteen hundreds. Dodo's are out, too.

Well, if we leave any animals alive on this planet in the next hundred years, we can do some monstrous genetic experiments on them and then, according to US law, legally enslave them because they aren't humans. (Several DNA engineering firms have begun 'uplift' on species of dogs and chimps for this very purpose. 'Uplift' being that we would make them more like us. Some of us might not see this as an 'uplift' exactly, but oh well...) Then we can ask these hybrid slaves what they think of us.

Personally, I think we suck. But that's just me.
posted by Ezrael at 8:48 PM on June 1, 2000 [2 favorites]

A caveat: since I was twelve, a skull fracture (the right side of my head was shattered) has caused me unrelenting agony almost daily. It got worse when I was sick. So please, keep in mind that I'm a wounded animal right now, and in the morning I may not hate humanity quite so much. I stand by what I said, but not the vehemence with which I said it.

It was excessive, and I deplore excess.
posted by Ezrael at 8:59 PM on June 1, 2000

Some humans are very cute though. I wouldn't want to see them all killed off. *smirk*
posted by ZachsMind at 9:18 PM on June 1, 2000

The best artists are the ones who will do anything to get their art done. And that means grinning and bearing it even in the face of document operation.

The Misanthropic Bitch site is great: http://bitch.shutdown.com/
posted by eljuanbobo at 12:28 AM on June 2, 2000

I'd say I'd probably be the kind to not say hi, or hello. It is hard sometimes, as one has said. Of course, it's hard to realize it's hard when it comes as second nature to some. I don't think that he's a misanthrope ("mis·an·thrope (msn-thrp, mz-) n. One who hates or mistrusts humankind.") because of not saying "hi."

That's a little harsh a label to put on someone? He could be shy, unconfident, disinterested, but that's completely different.

>He chose this career and now he doesn't like the fact that he has to actually work?

What does WORK have to do with saying "hi" to someone? If the job gets done, albeit in an anti-social way, then what's the problem? He's not saying hi, he's not getting involved in chit-chat and other evils - but I'm sure he gets his duties finished.

I don't see what the problem is.
posted by mkn at 1:23 AM on June 2, 2000

Note to self: stop trying to make semi-intelligent posts (I have to try so hard...) when it's 4:30 in the morning and I'm in need of sleep. Otherwise, it will come out sounding jumbled.
posted by mkn at 1:25 AM on June 2, 2000

Wow Ezrael, thats some rant! However I have to agree with the sentiment, if not the delivery.
Grumblebee's wife - he's a director, you must have worked with enough directors to know that many of them are up their own arse (UK-US: totally self absorbed and supercillious). He's being a drama queen, he loves the limelight and by being that way he knows people will notice him, remark on him but still hold him in some kind of 'awe' (for want of a better word).
In his artistic life, he's the top man, the one everyone takes their orders from, in his corporate life he's a drone, just like everyone else and he finds it difficult to take, so he hides behind a mask for protection.
The best response to people like him is to pity him, and if you want to get to him, laugh at him and his childish ways. The only person who really suffers from his being this way is him, he's missing out on social interaction with a diverse variety of people, something which makes humans slightly bettter than Ezrael's monster race.
Or then again he could just be a jerk.
posted by Markb at 1:34 AM on June 2, 2000

(this is the regular grumblebee again) One thing that keeps coming up is people who say, "hi. how are you?" and don't REALLY mean it. I have heard this talked about over and over in many conversations about the stupidity and dishonesty of small-talk.

Now, I can be very misanthropic at times, but I absolutely reject the theory that "hi. how are you?" is dishonest or hypocritical because the asker doesn't really care how you are.

In America, the phrase "hi. how are you?" doesn't really mean "I am truly interested in hearing about your day." It is a GREETING RITUAL. It simply means "I acknowledge your existence."

And it's not dishonest, because we all KNOW that's what it means.

It's like when someone sneezes, and I say "bless you." I am an atheist, and most of my friends know that. But no one ever accuses me of being hypocritical because "bless you" literally means "God bless you." Everyone knows that it is a ritual response to hearing someone sneeze.
posted by grumblebee at 4:53 AM on June 2, 2000

That's my problem with the phrase, grumblebee. I don't like that it's okay to ask me a question because they know and I know that they don't really care. I care, and when I ask it (which is seldom) I really am interested in the response. But because our society doesn't think 'Hello' is friendly enough, I have to put up with this bullshit, meaningless buzzphrase.

It's just one of many small things that irk me. In my more lucid moment, I realize how silly it is, how silly I am, getting so worked up over trifles. I mean, ultimately the planet will be fine. We'll kill ourselves and take 9/10's of the planet's bio-diversity with us, the remainder will adapt and expand to fill the empty niches, and the planet will keep hurtling through the dark and empty void of space absolutely unperturbed.

Wow. This is me in a better mood, too.
posted by Ezrael at 1:40 PM on June 2, 2000

It's NOT a question. If I formed a rock band and called it "where's the beef?" I would have created a TITLE that used the FORM of a question. But it wouldn't BE a question. It would be a title.

And it's not a meaningless buzzphrase, either. It MIGHT be a buzzphrase--I'm not sure what that is. But it's not meaningless, because it has a meaning. It means something like "I acknowledge your presence." Sure, people could merely say "hello," but if you're worried about saving syllables, you should be outraged that they said "hello" instead of the shorter and quicker "hi!"

If some people were using "hi. how are you?" as a ritual greeting, but others thought it was a genuine question, I would agree that there was a problem. But everyone knows that it's not a question, and everyone knows what it really means.

And there's no point in saying, "sure we all know what it means, but why don't people SAY what they really mean instead of implying it." They ARE saying what they mean. Words and phrases are just arbitrary sounds. A culture can assign a particular set of sounds to any meaning. Our culture has assigned "hi. how are you?" to the meaning "i acknowledge your presence."

By the way, I don't like all the "hi. how are you?" either, but that's due to my shyness and misanthropy. I know what it means, and it really doesn't make any difference to me whether people say "hello," "hi. how are you?" or "can you please slap my monkey?" When I get to work in the morning, I am grumpy and I don't want to talk to people. But I stifle this feeling, because I know it will be taken personally and it will hurt people's feelings. My feelings have been hurt before, and I know it's not fun. So I would feel bad doing it to someone else.

One final note: I have simplified the meaning of “hi. how are you?” in order to make a point. In realty, I think it means something in the BALLPARK of “I acknowledge your presence,” but the exact meaning differs slightly from speaker to speaker. Nothing strange about that. The exact meaning of “I feel sick” differs from person to person too. The important thing in casual conversation is to get the gist.

But there is actually a lot of information you can mine from a “hi. how are you?” if you listen closely. On my rare non-misanthropic mornings, I sometimes like to listen closely to what people say and how they say it. Along with the greeting/acknowledgment, you can also sometimes get sub-messages like “I’m in a hurry today,” “I’m in a good mood,” “I’m tired,” “I’m still a little pissed off at you,” etc.

And of course, every once in a while, “how are you?” really means HOW ARE YOU? You can tell when it has this true meaning, because the speaker looks you in the eye and says it slowly and waits for an answer.
posted by grumblebee at 4:41 PM on June 2, 2000

"Hi how are you" does not mean "I acknowledge your existence." I had this argument with an ex-girlfriend. Words mean what they mean. When you use them for something other than what they mean, they uhm... well! They lose their meaning! =) It's as simple as that.

The word 'love' for example. How can I use the same word for my girlfriend that I use for my dog? Or my favorite music artists? Or baklava? Each time I use that word in a different context, it weakens and cheapens the use of the word for when it really matters.

I think from now on when someone says "hi how are you?" I'm just gonna look up at them and smile and say, "I acknowledge your existence." Then I'll just keep on typing. We'll see how that works out.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:14 PM on June 2, 2000

You can tell that there are a lot of misanthropes here, just based on the amount of thought we've given to this. Okay. grumblebee, a buzzphrase (from the lexicon of one of my favorite writers, Warren Ellis) is a phrase that serves to grease the hive relations. It's basically the same thing as what bees do to get past each other and outside. It strips the words in it of meaning, which is where I agree with Zachs. Just say hello. It actually means what we've all supposedly agreed "How are you?" means.

Which I didn't. And since I'm a very, very small cog in our culture, I shall continue to disagree. I may use Zachs' idea. I think it's kind of neat.
posted by Ezrael at 8:15 PM on June 2, 2000

"Words mean what they mean."

I don't really get this. Who CHOOSES what words mean? Or do they just magically "get" a meaning?

Do you mean that words have an original meaning at some point (when they are originally coined) and they should never waiver from that meaning? In this case, we're making a big mistake when we use the word "awful" to mean something terrible, because that wasn't its original meaning.

Do you mean that we shouldn't use the same word to express two different things (which can be differentiated by context, inflection and body language)? If so, we'd better deal with cool = "somewhat cold" and cool = "super fine!" All languages are full of words serving multiple purposes. If we give this up, we're going to have to make up a LOT of new words.

Do you mean that we shouldn't use the same word to express SIMILAR (but not identical) thoughts (love for girlfriend/love for dog)? Does it cheapen the word "red" because I use it for the color of stop signs and also for the color of apples? They aren't the same color really. Maybe we should start giving RGB values when we mention a color, so that we can convey the precise idea.

Did your girlfriend get upset when you said you loved your dog? Did she accuse you of feeling the same way about her as you felt about your pet? Also, what about your love for your dog and my love for my dog. Maybe my feelings for my dog are greater than yours for your dog. Should we both be using the same word?

The wonderful thing about language is that you can use it to explain a complex idea quite precisely. But there are limits to its precision. The WORD love will never be as precise as the number 7. That's one of the reasons why we need numbers.

I think it's GOOD that words are not 100% precise. Words represent categories of ideas. When you say "love" and I listen to you, a number of things enter my mind. All of those things are in the constellation of love, romance, etc. And there is some slippage between these concepts. This slippage makes possible metaphor, poetry, and much of human creativity. And "slippage" doesn't mean arbitrariness or randomness. Love means many things to me, but it NEVER means "sausage." So there IS a kind of precision. The tension between precision and tension is what makes language exciting!
posted by grumblebee at 8:20 AM on June 3, 2000

My girlfriend and I argued over the concept of the english language as a whole. I can't even remember what started it, but I mentioned off the cuff that I felt Webster and all the other dictionaries of the world should keep up with the constant changes made to english in our society.

Her argument was that the dictionary represents an established lexicon. That if there wasn't something relatively concrete regarding english, it would turn into utter chaos and anarchy in a short period of time. She was even unhappy that words like "ain't" are in there now. Cuz even if it's in the dictionary, "ain't" just ain't a word.

And I said anything said by any english speaking person automatically becomes a word. That would include nearly unintelligible things like "ack" or "erk" or "gaaaah!"

She said that's called "slang" and doesn't belong in the dictionary either.

We went back and forth on this for about an hour. Over fish in a Red Lobster I think, if memory serves. She was pretty upset with me when it was all over cuz I was all for chaos and anarchy. Viva la difference!

It doesn't matter. She dumped me over completely different territory, but she also got tired of the pedantic arguments, which for me are just as important as the sex. I'm an Aquarian. We like long absurd late-night debates about nothing in particular.

Women claim to want men to talk more, but when we do, they just get upset about it.

...what was this thread about again?
posted by ZachsMind at 3:25 PM on June 4, 2000

I enjoy listening to the song of the misanthropes as they gather in the tree outside my window every morning...
posted by wendell at 4:25 PM on June 4, 2000

>Her argument was that the dictionary
>represents an established lexicon.

So we should never vary from what's in the dictionary? Okay, but which dictionary? The latest OED? But the OED has changed over the years as the language has changed, so the OED is impure. We'd better go back to the very first Englisg dictionary ever.

My guess is that your ex wanted us freeze English starting with the dictionaries that were current when she first learned to read. Was there something special about English that year?
posted by grumblebee at 6:00 PM on June 4, 2000

Nonononono you misunderstand. Gee how do I explain this?

I was saying to my ex-girlfriend that the dictionary should include words that are used in the common every day vernacular. It shouldn't have been an issue as long as it was to just add ain't into dictionaries. They shoulda just put it in there. In fact, the use of the word "shoulda" should be in the dictionary. Any evolution of our language should be included.

Her response was that I am wrong. That such words used in the every day language which are not a standard but are instead some kind of change in dialect or whatever should not be included. That they should be used in every day speech, but the dictionary should stand as a standard for 'appropriate' vocabulary which the majority of the english speaking world shares.

We don't use "youze guys" in the south. We say "y'all". It's a change in regional speech. I believe both "youze" and "y'all" belong in the dictionary. My ex-girlfriend was saying they do not. People can use them if they want but it's improper speech and the dictionary should disregard them.

By the way she's an english major and I'm a college dropout, so academically speaking I'd have to hand it to her there. Well come to think of it she was an english major at one time but she was also doing theater for awhile there. She's changing majors and changing colleges now. Again. Until recently her major was really 'party'. I mean she only recently started taking her academia more seriously.

But I digress. As usual. Getting back to the point, personally I don't think there should be regional or ethnic distinctions. Just throw it all in there. She disagreed.

She didn't want to freeze english. However, in her opinion people not speaking proper english are just wrong, and proper english shouldn't have to cater to such bastardizations of the language.

And my basic stand is that the english language is not something which should be standardized, but rather it is a socially evolving amorphic thing, and anything which claims to be recording it for posterity should capture the changes and evolutions of its progress.

You can probably see why she broke up with me. We had arguments like this all the time and some women just can't handle it. She also couldn't handle the fact that sometimes I take an opposing side just cuz I like to argue. I think it's fun. And when I'd lose an argument I'd shrug and go "okay" and that was it. That drove her nuts too.

I wish I could find a woman who both didn't take debates too seriously and was good in bed. But this thread was originally about misanthropy, so maybe we should just start another thread maybe?
posted by ZachsMind at 9:23 PM on June 4, 2000

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