It’s been pointed out to me that I wasn’t terribly clear in the post below, Scum. It was written fairly soon after the disturbing events, and I was quite anxious and frustrated at the time. I want to be perfectly clear, though, so I’m going to make a few additional points and clarifications. Primarily, I want to define the term scum as I intend it to mean here, but that requires a few preambles. And so:
1. Humans, and all organisms for that matter, are opportunists. This is not positive or negative, it just is.
2. What accounts for the everyday difference in behavior between myself and someone like the Scum Boss? The short answer is culture and values. The long answer is that I grew up in a culture that values the social contract and he didn’t. Therefore, I’m extremely reluctant to engage in behavior that is bad for society (i.e., stealing). He is not.
3. I’m perfectly aware that there are many Arab immigrants in Italy who do not behave as the Scum Boss does. Italy’s economy, much like America’s, would halt if all its Arab immigrants suddenly stopped working. There are many, many, honest and hardworking Arab families living in Italy. Demographically speaking, the problem generally lies with large groups of young single men. I’d wager that young immigrant men who have women in their lives–whether they’ve brought their mothers, sisters, and especially wives with them from the old country–generally engage in less antisocial behavior. Whereas large populations of young single men, in any society, tend to instigate a disproportionate amount of societal angst.
So. All that being said, my definition of scum: A person who believes that the best way to get ahead is by taking from others.
When I first started trying to define the term scum, I started with “someone who is motivated primarily by self-interest”. But that is not quite right, because the social contract that you and I were raised to respect really is in our self interest. I want to live in a society that upholds ‘the good, the true, the beautiful’, therefore I (try to) uphold those things. It’s in my self interest. If instead I use ‘taking from others’ as the defining characteristic of scum, the meaning comes into clearer focus. In the social contract, my self interest is also yours. In the scum’s universe, my self interest is contrary to yours. And that’s why its called scum.