Long-time readers of Cracked have likely noticed a recent shift in tone toward the life affirming and optimistic. The columns that used to be about sex-fighting with clones and transvestite heroes throughout history are suddenly riddled with genuine advice and outstretched hands to readers stumbling into adulthood, into sobriety, into whatever it is Gladstone became.
Which is fine, I guess. There is no harm in help. I just wish someone had told me that's what we were doing now. Instead, as John Cheese was commiserating with the
In a world of Haves and Have-Nots, you are unquestionably a Have which comes with an enormous burden. Homeless animals, starving people and a burning planet are all cultural wounds you have the capacity to dress with dollar bills. What's more, the Internet and the telephone have made the job even easier, but they've also saddled you with the knowledge that regardless of how much you give, it will never be the most you can do. You can't be a hero to everyone and that kind of guilt can be overwhelming. That's why I adhere to what I call the Zero Accountability Lifestyle. I throw money at far fewer problems than I will admit and even then, only at the causes that offer me some kind of recognition.
Match that, Greenpeace.
Then, and this is important, I discharge the rest of my moral load on other people. It's that simple. You can escape feeling bad about your standard of living by blaming anyone who supports it. You can eat a McRib while adamantly denouncing the practices of the fast-food industry or shake your head knowingly from inside your hybrid as it drifts through a water-wasting automatic carwash because what other choice do you have? The world is responsible, not you. You'll be surprised at how good it feels. Just search through the secret shames in your own life and see if there isn't someone else who is a little bit more to blame.
In addition, you can attach yourself to an already accredited group of victims. This not only absolves you of all your faults but allows you to cast judgment on other people, which, if you haven't done before, feels fantastic. This works particularly well on the Internet where no one can verify you aren't really a Native American or the descendant of war heroes. On nearly any site with a social media tool, you will see the Zero Accountability Lifestyle hard at work as righteous people argue over who has the bigger culpability-force field. See the comment section below for examples.
It's crucial to always pick at least one cause you can support, not because it helps you to become a better person, but because you will need it in your arsenal when the desperate and meek smell your competence. I, for instance, am a proud sponsor of Heifer International, a program which allows me to manifest my support for needy families around the world in the form of cows.
And they are fat with good intentions.
Just as supermarkets and fast food chains will write your name on a donation card and paste it on the walls behind the counter when you contribute to their cause, so too will the families in Africa or Eastern Europe brand your name and likeness on those cows and sheep, I've been assured. More importantly though, helping such a worthy cause allows me to earn and save morality credits which I can use later when confronted by the more immediate desperation I trip over from time to time in my daily life. This is generally how it goes:
Homeless Infant: Excuse me, sir. Can you spare any change for me and my puppy?
Me: Oh. Oh, maybe you haven't heard. I'm a good person in other ways, so...
Homeless Infant: So you'll help me?
Me: What? No. Look, I don't think you understand. You and I don't have to do this. I already gave an ox to a family in Zimbabwe.
Homeless Infant: I'm so hungry and the winter is so long.
Homeless Infant: ...
Me: I also do walks for MS.
Homeless Infant: Oh! Oh god. I'm sorry. I feel stupid now. Ha. I didn't realize you had other things going on. Sir, if I may say so, those causes are really lucky to have you.
Me: They are. They really are.
With all the innocence you're buying yourself with the first two tips, it's only natural that at some point another person will wrong you. They are, after all, not as strong as us. Now the predominant mentality in our culture is that everyone deserves forgiveness, that we should offer it liberally because there isn't one person among us who won't need it at some point. That's misguided, and more importantly, short-sighted. As anyone who's taken an economics class can tell you, a surplus of any one thing will immediately cause inflation and a cheapening of the product. So thanks to the "turn the other cheek" attitude, forgiveness has lost its value in the moral market.
Fortunately, you can use that to your advantage. While everyone else showers you with compassion and leniency, you can be stingy with your own, which will not only drive up the price but result in power as well. Let's say, for instance, that your long-time girlfriend or boyfriend has left you for someone else. And just for the sake of specificity, let's say it was someone who worked in the medical field and that he's a complete dick. Thanks to the social norm, she's going to anticipate that at some point you will stop sending pictures of road kill or standing outside her window trying to make your sobs sound like the wind.
Thinking of you.
Ultimately, she expects forgiveness, but regardless of how much you still want to make her happy, don't give it to her. Hold out for months, years if you can, as long as it takes for her to accept that no mercy is coming and that this is just a way of life now.
Then and only then, you can forgive her, because at that point it will come as such a shock that she will believe the cost to you was astronomical. She will marvel at your willingness to fight and win against your own emotions for the sake of everyone. She will think about you while preparing dinner or, with any luck, while showering, wondering where the two of you went wrong. At that point you will have successfully turned forgiveness into something far more pointed and beautiful:
Which segues nicely into the final bit of advice ...
Culturally speaking, we are in love with stories of struggle because we want to believe it's always followed by reward. What most people refuse to acknowledge, however, is that struggle doesn't just work in one direction, it can drift anywhere, even into the asinine. That's why you'll notice people around you setting up arbitrary hurdles in their lives just to jump over them and feel better about themselves. Raw foodists, cleansing enthusiasts, and likely real hurdle jumpers all insist that their life choices are making them something other than miserable, that they are taking the hard road toward personal improvement. But they are wrong.
Seriously. I love this bullshit.
Still, you can cash in on the confusion. Set up a few high-profile inconveniences in your own life, and watch as others automatically mistake you for someone striving toward betterment. For instance, you can take up gardening or insist on walking places instead of driving. Everyone around you will automatically correlate those efforts with some end goal at which they suspect you are aiming, regardless of whether you have one in mind or not.
There you have it. It's honestly that simple. Give any of these tips a shot and watch how quickly people praise you for being a fantastic person. I will be waiting for my thank you letters.
How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
Most rich kids just want to be pop stars.
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.
It's easy to work the system and win these awards even if you don't deserve them.