Sometimes you meet someone who’s a real jerk. A complete asshat. Do you know anyone like that? I think you probably do.
You meet such a person and the outcome is always the same. “You’re a jerk!” you say, “A complete asshat!”
Back comes the reply: “No, you’re a jerk! You’re a complete asshat!”
But let’s stand back for a moment and consider the symmetry of the situation.
It’s not like you called the guy a jerk and he said, “So what?” or “Huh?” He called you exactly the same thing back. Is it somehow remotely possible that what he’s thinking about you is similar to what you’re thinking about him?
There’s no logical reason to suppose you’re right and he’s wrong. A neutral observer might conclude that, rationally, you are both jerks.
This is very hard to accept, because this guy is obviously a complete dong. And isn’t it in fact moral cowardice not to confront bad behaviour? Well, yes, but that’s a slightly different question. Sometimes you have to act, to confront bullying behaviour, stand up for justice and oppose dictators. But even then, violence is rarely the best solution.
War did solve the problem of Adolf Hitler, but it didn’t solve Northern Ireland or the Israel/Palestine conflict. It doesn’t seem to solve most conflicts.
When I was young and naïve I used to believe that rational discourse could be used to solve world problems. I no longer believe that. But I do believe that polite discourse can solve many of them. That’s a stronger requirement you see – being polite requires more than just rationality. Rational people can disagree violently. But polite people learn to disagree and shake hands.
So, the next time you meet some moronic wombat with goat dung for brains, just pause for a moment. Consider the possibility that he thinks you’re a total air-head too. Unless this person poses some kind of actual threat, then refrain from violent disagreement. Find something you can agree on, or just walk away. Because there are too many jerks out there for you to handle. In fact, you may even be one of them.