I’ve always had this theory that there are four types of people. In order of my personal preference, they are:
1. smart nice people
2. dumb nice people
3. dumb mean people
4. smart mean people
I could draw a grid, but I don’t think I need to. Quadrants. Pretty simple.
Now, by “smart”, I don’t necessarily mean educated or literate – just – smart. Commonsensical. Knowing which way is up, and how many beans make five. Conversely, you can have the best education in the world and yet still, somehow, be as dumb as a post.
So – what do I mean by “mean”? Including, but not limited to: Selfish. Obstinate. Loud. Bigoted. Pushy. Narcissistic. Sneering. Rude. Self-aggrandizing. Arrogant.
In this grid, “nice” trumps everything, particularly in my line of work.
1. Smart nice people – I don’t see a lot of these at work, and they usually aren’t in custody. If you’re smart and nice, you usually don’t need me to help get you a lawyer, unless your marriage falls apart, or you get blamed for something you didn’t do. Usually, you require minimal assistance from me, you listen, we get along fine, you say “thanks”, and I never see you again. I love you.
2. Dumb nice people – I see a lot of these, but I generally only see them once or twice. If you don’t have the intellectual wherewithal to understand the system, I will do my very best to help guide you through it, patiently and pleasantly. And because you’re nice, you generally appreciate my assistance. I will reassure you, pass you kleenex, and make sure you get the help you require from the appropriate source. Often, you were swayed by someone in category 3 who took advantage of your good nature and set you up for a fall; in the wrong place at the wrong time. Usually, I’ll never see you again, either. I love you too.
3. Dumb mean people – I see a lot of these too, probably more than any other type. It’s not their fault that they’re mean, it’s usually just because they’re dumb. They don’t understand the world around them, no one bothers to explain it properly, they make mistakes, they get angry, and they take it out on whoever is in the way. Often, me. I will try to patiently help you get the assistance you require. You need it just as much as anyone else, often more. The system is hard on people who both don’t understand and are not inclined to listen and learn. They need a reasonable advocate to paint them in their best light. But please listen to me! I’m trying to help you. Believe it or not, I’m on your side, buddy. Don’t take it out on me.
4. Smart mean people – I don’t see a lot of these, thank God. They’re very, very scary people. Sociopaths. Narcissistic personality disorders. Here are some smart, mean people: Ted Bundy. Hitler. Jack the Ripper. I think that there’s more of them than we know, because they cause all kinds of havoc and misery and don’t get caught. The ones that I do see scare the living daylights out of me. They accept my help grudgingly, because it irks them to have to deal with someone as stupid and menial as me. It’s always very important that they impress upon me how terribly smart they are. They are constantly trying to play the system, to hide and distract, to attempt to cause me to make statements that they can twist to their advantage. They generally are caught in connection with big, bad crimes. Really big. Really bad. They have probably done a lot of smaller crimes, but haven’t been caught. They feel that the rules set out of the rest of us don’t apply to their exceptional selves. God help you if you or I are in their way, because we just don’t matter. It’s allllllll about them. Please don’t hunt me down and disembowel me. They make me very, very tired and sad. I’m glad I don’t see a lot of them, because on the rare days when I have to see them, at the end of the day, I am very tired, very sad, and very uncertain about our inherent worth as a species.
I don’t mean to be politically incorrect in my use of the term “dumb”. I hope I’ve explained properly what I mean by the term. Also, I’m not talking about people with mental health issues, just about plain common sense. Either you’ve got it, or you haven’t, and if you haven’t, that’s okay.
But please just be nice. Can’t we all just play nice? Please? I usually love my job, I want to help people, I want to be kind and patient and helpful. I believe in access to justice, I believe in equality and fairness. I want to keep believing in it, but sometimes I just sink into horrible despair.