Sunday, January 27, 2008

Attack of the "I Don't Give a Fuck" People

There’s a woman at work who's been annoying me lately. She's an archetype of people I’ve encountered, and have personally been at times, in my life: The “I Don’t Give a Fuck” People. Remember being a teenager or in your early adulthood, and any time you were faced with a stressful situation demanding that you respond in an immediate fashion, the pressure combined with your lack of maturity would often result in this response: “I don’t give a fuck!”

Or “shit.” Or “damn.” There you go, Rhett Butler at the end of Gone with the Wind. These days, Rhett would say, “Frankly, Charlotte, I don’t give a fuck.” As he sauntered from the mansion, hopped in his '76 Nova with flaming tailpipes, and drove down to hear the Atlanta Rhythm Section at the local bar.

This woman at work is a few years older than I am, in her mid-40s. Has two college-age kids. Is in a semi-supervisory role. She’s prone to getting extremely emotional and pitching fits in closed-door meetings in her boss’ office. She often jokes about taking anti-depressants, and it’s clear she takes them daily. Oddly enough, she’s basically a nice person I get along with, although I suspect she wanted to get all I-Don’t-Give-a-Fucky with me when I made the executive decision to move the fax machine away from just a few feet from her desk. She wrongly believes I’m under the protection of the guy running the department (my boss, and her boss’ boss), but I’m really not, she could tell me anything she wants, in any tone of voice she wants.

And I don’t give a fuck!

What a wonderful world it would be if we could all go around giving that template response to any question: I just don’t give a fuck.

I hope you’re gathering that I’m dog tired of this sort of response, especially from someone old enough to presumably give a fuck about many things. I think what bothers me most about this current situation is the woman seems to delight in telling people, in her high-pitched, “don’t mess with me, I’m a crazy bitch” tone of voice, that she doesn’t give a fuck. It’s like a badge of honor. Only she sees reality, that the given situation does not require her to investment her precious emotions, therefore …

It seems like the only thing she gives a fuck about is letting everyone know she doesn’t give a fuck!

I’m not sure when people got it into their heads that declaring your lack of emotional involvement and commitment to anything was an attractive, respectable, honorable quality. It isn’t. Most people I know who truly don’t give a fuck about anything are, simply stated, assholes. Because they don’t give a fuck about anything, you can’t trust them. They have no accountability. Nothing matters to them. Go ahead, beat the shit out of them. They don’t give a fuck. After you’re done, and they’re laying on the ground in a heap, they’ll eventually get up again and go straight back to not giving a fuck about anything.

Of course, your average “I don’t give a fuck” person, were you to attack them in any sense, physically, emotionally or mentally, would respond and, in fact, would make your demise their number one, burning, “now I give a fuck” reason to live. Which is the real issue and problem with the “I don’t give a fuck” people. What they’re really trying to tell you is they’re mentally ill at worst, or childish at best. They haven’t quite gathered that no one give a fuck that they don’t give a fuck, and loudly proclaiming this on a regular basis only makes other people view them in a negative light. Unless they’re like-minded “I don’t give a fuck” people, in which case you’ll have a confederacy of dunces, a portable New York City. They're the boy who cried "I don't give a fuck," so that when they finally do give a fuck, no one believes them.

My reality, not sure how it compares to yours, is that if I were to make a pie chart demonstrating the things and people I truly give fuck about as opposed to those I don’t give a fuck about, there would be a less-than-one-percent sliver denoting what I truly care about in the world. Think about it. How many people there are in the world. How many different issues there are to get truly upset about if you so desire, maybe even get involved with on some level. Heath Ledger? Cold as it may seem, I don’t give a fuck that the guy just died. I feel vaguely bad for his ex and kid, and family and friends. But I don’t recall any of these people dropping cards and calls when my dad passed on, a situation I truly gave a fuck about, nor did I expect them to, as they didn’t know him. I have a hard time grieving for people I didn’t know. Generally speaking, unless they touched me in some way with their art, or imparted some other message I admired in some sense, it just doesn’t happen.

And that’s just the way of the world, which some people seem loathe to admit, or maybe I’m just missing something when I get perturbed over the unbelievable carrying on over this regrettable situation for the past week. (It isn’t tragic. It’s stupid and pointless, a bad way to go. You leave a kid behind at that age, I can only hope the end was accidental. I don’t know. I don’t care. People of all ages are dying all the time, and I don’t know what emotional filter is supposed to serve as a norm for absorbing all that emotional darkness. How much you should acknowledge, how much you should ignore. I know what mine is, and it’s the difference between empathy and sympathy, if you want to break out the dictionary. I don’t make exceptions for celebrities.)

I don’t get any pleasure about letting the world know I don’t give a fuck about many things. I don’t feel any spite about it either. If you hear me saying I don’t give a fuck, it’s an accident, something I didn’t want anyone else to hear. Because I’ve come to realize that I like people who give a fuck and who demonstrate that more than say it. I like showing people that I give a fuck. I tried avoiding this knowledge about myself for years, masking it in irony and black humor, which I still gladly partake in. But I also know that I’m more prone to giving a fuck, that people expect me to give a fuck, because it’s just part of my nature. Get yourself in a work or personal situation with Bill, sooner or later, the guy will give a fuck. Sometimes too much of a fuck, but a fuck nonetheless. On one hand, I don’t care what you think about me. On the other, I recognize that there are standards in any given situation, quiet rules of morality, doing what’s “right” so to speak, and I try to gauge that and respond acccordingly. Finding myself not giving a fuck in any situation is a failure of sorts, and not something I like to admit to these days. Not giving a fuck is just too lazy.

So, you can see this is something I give a mild fuck about, and when this woman at work proudly declare she doesn’t give a fuck, or I hear some random kid on the street declaring the same, I cringe. It’s just such an obvious character deficiency that I don’t see any positive outcome in pointing this out to the person. Because, as noted earlier, people who claim to not give a fuck give an absolute fuck about demonstrably not giving a fuck. It’s their thing. Wrap your mind around that, man! I don’t give a fuck! How do you like those apples, asshole?

Why do I find the concept so ugly and empty? If you look at it from a Buddhist point of view, not giving a fuck must be a beautiful thing. Unencumbered by attachment, floating free of the unreality of our world. Unfortunately, I rarely see people smilingly coo, “I don’t give a fuck” with sitars strumming in the background. It’s always some angry, frustrated person really saying he or she feels powerless. It’s not a sense of release, of rising to some higher plane where not giving a fuck offers enlightenment. There is no release. There’s some grumbling or raging person declaring it, and that same bleakness not just enduring beyond the statement, but most likely growing bleaker.

Fuck the “I Don’t Give a Fuck” people, the fucking fucks. After a certain point in life, you really should start giving a fuck about situations in life you’re entirely capable of giving a fuck about. I’m not saying walk the streets in a flowing robe, handing daisies out and declaring to strangers with a warm smile, “Hey … I give a fuck.”

All I’m saying is give a fuck when you can. Keep it to yourself when you can’t. I gather we’re living in a culture where not giving a fuck isn’t just the norm but a badge of honor for a lot of people who truly need to pull their heads out of their asses. I recall in the weeks following 9/11, one of the writers for the weekly paper I also wrote for put forth that Hollywood would never make another movie where the cool anti-hero would calmly walk away from a massive explosion occurring behind his back, probably in slow motion, and not react humanly, i.e., just keep on walking, like a fireball of body parts and steel shooting into the sky was normal, as opposed to the real reactions of running, turning around, or hitting the ground in fear of getting hit by debris.

Well, got news for you, after that grace period where we all became gentle hippies for a month or two, movie scenes like that became the norm again, not so much because we forgot the lessons of that day but more so because people who make movies recognize movie goers like watching and often emulating people who just don’t give a fuck, as demonstrated by deeply unreal scenes like that.

I can live with that sort of unreality, but, man, it gets tired in real life, where there are very few casual fireballs, just people in our lives who put out the vibe that they don’t care about anyone or anything. No drama. No cool soundtrack. The world most likely won’t end with a bang. It will end with no one giving a fuck.

1 comment:

Andy S. said...

I look at it this way: when someone I work with or deal with on some level makes it clear he (or she) doesn't give a fuck about me or what I'm doing, that gives me carte blanche to do the same with respect to him. It can be a wonderfully liberating experience, if you do it right.

It really just boils down to: you reap what you sow.