The (Other) One Percent (Who WILL Hurt You)

With all the talk about Occupy Wall Street and the 99% versus the 1%, I wanted to take a few minutes to warn you about a different group of one percenters: those who will punch you in the face for disrespecting them.

What I am referring to are people who CANNOT stand being insulted or otherwise disrespected, either directly or through passive-aggressive means. They usually step in when they see others being picked on too. These are people who believe in old-school versions of respect and are willing to defend their own honor by any means possible, including violence.

Think back to the 18th Century and earlier, when men would duel when their honor, or the honor of someone they love, was challenged. That’s where this type of thinking is coming from.

In this case, 1% is not a scientific number. It is a generalization I have given this group, based on the Hells Angels, who wore patches on their motorcycle jackets that simply said “1%.” This was because someone had famously said that 99% of people who ride motorcycles are upstanding people. The Hells Angels wanted you to know where they fit in to the equation.

I chose this number because I believe that 99% of people you encounter in your life will simply let an insult roll off their back because they don’t view the confrontation to be worth it. But, I must warn you that there are people out there who will demand an apology, and will punch you in the face if they don’t get it.

 

Meet an (Other) One Percenter

If you are still unsure who I am talking about, or don’t believe me, allow me to tell you a true story about a friend of mine who fits into this category.

My friend, let’s call him James, will punch you in the face if you disrespect him. He does not care if you are bigger than him, if you are with 10 other people, or if there is a cop standing 5 feet away. To him, respect is due to everyone you meet, unless they do something to cause you to lose it. Not only does he believe you owe him common respect, he will, by default, give you that same respect he expects.

If you make fun of him or one of his friends in a way he feels crosses the line, he will call you out for it and ask for an apology. If you don’t give it, he will demand it. If you are foolish enough to not comply, he will hurt you.

True story: James once had a party at his apartment in Chicago. He is a popular guy, even though he is from a tiny town in downstate Illinois, and not like most typical Chicagoans. Some friends of his showed up, and one of them brought a few people he didn’t know.

Being a respectful guy, James didn’t mind a few new faces.

The party went late, and when he woke up in the morning, aside from a large mess of beer bottles and cigarette ashes, he discovered that someone had carved an obscenity into his wooden coffee table.

Needless to say, he was furious. He knew that none of his friends would do this, and immediately suspected one of the strangers. He spent the day making phone calls to attendees and found a few people who saw one of the strangers do it with a key.

He also found out who the stranger was and where he worked. He was able to get a call in to the guy, and asked him to compensate him for the table. A couple hundred bucks. The guy refused, and called him a few choice words.

So what did my friend do? (hint: it’s something the OTHER 1% is prone to do)

He hurt him.

Specifically, he went to where the guy worked, a restaurant, and waited for him to get off work. He then confronted the guy in an alley and again demanded $200. The guy, who was with a couple coworkers, was feeling tough and told him to screw off.

James punched him in the stomach, then uppercutted him in the face. When he fell to the ground, James sat on his chest and poked him while lecturing about respect. He then removed the guy’s wallet from his pocket and took his tips for the night.

Long story short, James was arrested the next day and had to attend anger management, and is still on probation.

But he doesn’t care.

He would do it again if he felt he had to.

 

What to Do if You Anger One of These (Other) One Percenters

Most people you meet will not fit into this category. If you disrespect them, they will likely be too timid to say anything. But if you live your life with a snarky and insulting sense of humor, you stand a good chance of winding up in a faceoff.

So what should you do if you run afoul of someone like this? Basically you have two choices: apologize and be done with it, or stand up for what you said.

If you want to diffuse or avoid such a situation:

  • First, show everyone respect, especially if you don’t know them
  • If you offend someone by disrespecting them, apologize when confronted

If you don’t want to apologize:

  • Be prepared to fight, or
  • Be prepared to run!

 

So Where Does this Fit with Personal Finance?

The negative people you meet in your life, the people who always seem to be tearing others down while smiling at the same time, likely are just verbalizing their own inner insecurities. They are constantly trying to get ahead. They lack self-confidence.

The Economist recently highlighted the results of a study that gave a group of people each a different amount of money, separated by one dollar, and informed everyone of the income distribution and their place in the distribution. The participants were then each given another two dollars, with the instructions that they were to give the money either to the person ahead of them, who had a dollar more, or the person below them, who had a dollar less.

The person who was one spot from the bottom was more likely than anyone else to give the money to the person above them. The authors of the study theorize about a “last place aversion,” that we would rather help someone above us than let someone below us catch up or pass us.

The people who disrespect others probably view themselves as better than the subject of the insult, and want to keep them in their place. And this may seem to explain why many poor voters in situations where it would seem like they should support economic policies that would change regressive tax policies and eliminate loopholes and deductions that reward the wealthy. Instead they are aspirational, believing that they stand a good chance of becoming rich themselves, if they support the policies of the rich.

So our human nature, and living in a country built on innovation and ambition and pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, has created a system of wealth distribution where the person above  you is more likely to be working to keep you down.

And you damn well aren’t going to be the one on the bottom, so you push the person below you down.

This is a race to the bottom disguised as a noble pursuit of success.

 

Moral of the Story

Let me first say I don’t condone violence.

But let me also say, if you are the type of person who would carve curse words into a stranger’s coffee table, a stranger who was kind enough to offer you hospitality, then you deserve to lose a few teeth.

The problem with our society is that there are too few people who are willing to call others out for disrespect. This has only led to more disrespect, spreading it like a cancer. I honestly believe this lack of willingness to stand up for ourselves and for others has allowed this culture of bullying to spiral almost out of control. We’ve spent so much time telling kids that everyone is special and we should all get along, and you shouldn’t cause a ruckus and stand up for yourself that it might be time to unwind some of this.

Bullying is becoming the number one problem in schools. Kids are so afraid of getting picked on and insulted they can’t even learn. Much like our example about the adults who would rather give to the person above them and keep the person below them down, kids are so worried about success that they must constantly view themselves as being “one step from the bottom.” I think we’d find that most bullies are victims of bullying themselves.

We must redefine success from its current zero sum game, winner takes all place to one where a rising tide lifts all boats. Not helping each other is keeping everyone down.

The story above about my friend James actually started ten years prior with bullying. He was a little guy and got bullied a lot. And it stopped when he confronted a bully and put him in his place. If you think James gets bullied by anyone today, you’d be wrong.

So is James a bully? Maybe the person on the other end might think so, but I’ve seen him confront bullies in public and even step in between a knife wielding bum and some truly scared people. He stands up to the bullies, even when the person being bullied is afraid to. I would say that the person dishing the insult is the bully. And labeling the person who said something about it a bully also has only made people even more afraid to call it out when they see it.

So what can we do?

Stopping disrespect doesn’t have to be confrontational. If someone makes a backhanded compliment or takes a joke in a group of people too far, let them know in front of everyone that you don’t appreciate it. Chances are they will agree that their behavior was childish, and they’ll never insult you again.

Doing this only helps you, and it actually might help the next person this individual will insult by making the insulter less likely to do it in the future.

And if we stop disrespecting ourselves and start looking for ways to bring others up, we’ll find that it’s more fun to look outward than always at our own shortcomings.

So what can we do to shift our society towards one that builds each other up?

How many more kids are going to have to take their own lives before we get a handle on the culture of disrespect and bullying?

 

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18 Comments
  1. That is a pretty interesting post. That individual that punched the other guy over 200 bucks shows a scary side of society. That being said it just goes to show that being careful and analyzing the situation really does pay off. If he had stopped to think about the consequences of his actions perhaps he wouldn’t be faced with probation and the such.
    Juan recently posted..Why You Should Own Bank And Utility StocksMy Profile

    • Hey Juan – yeah, it does show a side of society, one that will probably always be around, no matter how far we “advance” as a people. The problem facing people that run afoul of these one percenters is that even if they did stop to think about consequences, they don’t really care, or they care more about respect and defending their honor.

      Thanks for reading.

  2. Fascinating post! I hated bullies in school, and I ALWAYS fought back. I didn’t care, I demanded equality and respect. I remember one guy tripping me on the soccer field, and I threw him to the ground and stopped on his solar plex. HE apologized and never messed with me again.

    Be prepared to FIGHT if you disrespect or disrespect anyone. Or simply apologize, which is more courageous.

    Sam
    Financial Samurai recently posted..Always Be The Underdog To Get AheadMy Profile

    • Good point, Sam. A bigger person would just admit they were wrong and apologize. That is usually the tougher decision. People are so accustomed to no one saying anything when we disrespect them that it almost becomes expected. Here’s to a new way of treating each other.

  3. Great thoughts on this one, John. I don’t condone aggression either, but I’m 100% behind protecting oneself and one’s property.
    101 Centavos recently posted..Caffe’ Macchiato: Learning a Foreign Language… With Baby StepsMy Profile

  4. Interesting thoughts. I think too many of us expect someone else to look out for us, for someone else to be more interested in our safety than we are ourselves.

    • That’s an interesting viewpoint. It’s as if people take their own safety for granted. Thanks for reading.

  5. This is an interesting post, though, I find a lot that I don’t agree with.

    First, in humans and animals, there is a natural order or a hierarchy. Some members are more dominant and have more power due to their place. This is what humans do, when young they compete for mates and their place in the hierarchy. Disrespect and bullying is part of it, it’s jockeying.

    The personal finance angle is completely off the mark. There is no such thing as wealth distribution, there is no regulator, it’s a fantasy creation by socialist regulators, people who really just want to determine what everyone gets.
    Six Figure Investor recently posted..Where To Put Your Cash NowMy Profile

    • Hey Six Figure Investor, thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment.

      While you are correct that bullying is human nature, so is the desire to live in a society and work together for mutual benefit. That’s why we are where we are today. That means we don’t have to just accept bullying. We can choose to change things.

      I’m not real sure about your second point. If you say that our society has bullies and dominant people, why would these people not also control the wealth distribution? Are you saying there is no man-made distribution, only a natural one that runs with the laws of natural selection?

      The point I was making about the distribution is that some people have a tendency to want to keep others down if they feel that person threatens them or their social position. I was not making any broad claims about whether wealth distribution exists, or who created it. IF you oppose wealth REdistribution, then you must admit that there is an actual imposed distribution.

      I think you are reading more into what I was saying than is truly there. Since you brought up socialism, I’ll say this: We live in a democratic socialist country. That’s the way the majority of Americans want things. You are going to have to work pretty hard to change that.

      Thanks again for reading. This is exactly the type of discussion I try to create here.

  6. What an interesting post! Now I have a few comments…
    1) With the Economist study, what was the option given to the person in last place? I wonder if they had the option of giving to the person right above them or the person in first place? And what about the person in first place? Were they allowed to give to the person in last place? Did they? I think the last place aversion idea is exaggerated. Seriously, I need to get a job with one of these think tank places. I would come up with some better studies!
    2) I wish I could call out everyone who acts disrespectfully. I would be really busy though! It’s really not worth it for me because I just get myself all worked up. Although a friend today told me of her workplace situation where a coworker questioned her ability in front of a group of others, and that really draws the line. I would have to deal with that, because now my livelihood/professional reputation is in question. I think it all depends on the situation. Crowded bar? Forget it. In an office, in my home. amongst my friends? Now you’re toeing the line…
    American Debt Project recently posted..So What DO I Want To Do?My Profile

    • Good questions. I wonder if the richest gave to the poorest and how often? I don’t know that I could abide someone questioning my abilities in front of others.

  7. While I don’t believe that violence the way to go, I have a lot of respect for anyone who can stand up for themselves.
    Marissa @ Thirty Six Months recently posted..Link Love- Extra Large Pancake EditionMy Profile

    • I agree Marissa. Unfortunately there are too many people out there who take advantage of those who won’t stand up for themselves, and the only way they are going to stop is if we all stand together for mutual respect and to reject the culture of passing judgment. Thanks for reading.

  8. Your article is sad, but very true…. Our society stopped rewarding altruism and kindness and now rewards this kind of behaviour.

    Corporate bullies are heralded for their great business acumen when, if the same behaviour was exhibited outside of the office environment, they would often be reviled.

    Some people don’t even need the excuse of a damaged table or the like.

    I saw a beautiful thing a few weeks ago.
    A crowded bus on the way back from work and a wannabe gangsta was listening to their phone using the crappy speaker and throwing rubbish around and just being a pain by insulting people…
    An elderly lady made them pick up the rubbish they had strewn all over the bus. Sadly, she was the only person to say anything.

    • Wow, I would pay money to see an old lady scold a little hoodlum on a bus. Great story!

      It’s scary when people are so afraid to say or do the wrong thing, that the people who don’t care at all get to behave however they want in our public spaces.

      Thanks for reading!
      John recently posted..Spend Less than You EarnMy Profile

  9. Wow, a great article, sad and very true at the same time.

  10. I totally agree. We must be allowed to protect our loved ones and our own property. If thieving and violent scoundrels can’t keep their hands and fists to themselves, we would all be in trouble if we just let it happen. We must be courageous enough to stand up for what is right.

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