Why I Admire Bums

Most people don't like bums. They're smelly, they look awful, they dig through trash, and they're always pestering people for change. I never liked bums either, they make me uncomfortable, and I never thought much more about it.

One day I was watching Batman Begins. One of the best scenes was towards the end of the movie when Bruce is having his birthday party. The Legion of Shadows have infiltrated the mansion, and in order to protect his guests, Bruce calls for a toast and gets his guests to leave by insulting them, calling them two faced phonies that are only interested in his money.

At this point, movie goers are typically squirming at the fact he would damage his reputation to such a degree in order to protect his guests.

This type of scenario happens in a number of movies. In the original Superman, Louis is walking the streets of New York with Clark when a mugger pulls them into an alley, threatening them with a gun and demands their wallet and purse. Louis is not compliant, and the gunman accidentally fires a round at Louis. Clark, being Superman, catches the bullet with his hand and then falls to the ground. Louis assumes he got shot, but Clark wakes up claiming that he must have just fainted.

Social Restraints

Society has numerous unwritten laws on how to behave properly or be judged negatively as a consequence. Both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent were judged negatively for their behavior above.

The problem is that it's not always in our best interest to follow these rules. It's not always in society's interest for us to follow them either. Yet, they must exist for a reason, for if they did not exist, people might be prone to all sorts of undesirable behavior.

This causes a situation where most of the time it's in both yours and society's interest to follow the "unwritten laws" yet, on occasion it's in your interest or society's interest or both, to break them.

In order to fully optimize one's behavior, you need to follow these social rules when appropriate, and flex them when appropriate, absorbing any negative perceptions garnered along the way, as both Bruce and Clark did.

Yet most people are constrained by these rules and have a rough time absorbing negative perceptions.

Bums on the other hand, can absorb an unlimited amount of negative perception. They break every social norm in the book, and it doesn't bother them one bit. It takes a lot of balls to do that. That's why I admire bums. They're totally free. However, they're behavior is not optimized because they break social rules when they really shouldn't.

Shy People

What this means, is that the opposite of a bum, is a shy person. This person cannot behave optimally either, because they're behavior is constrained by the risk of being perceived negatively.

What is optimal?

In the movie Fight Club, the main character played by Edward Norton, is a troubled individual in a number of ways, including being constrained by what others might think of him. After his condo is blown up and all of his belongings are destroyed, he has nowhere to go and meets his alter ego Tyler Durden at a bar. After a few beers, they leave the bar and Edward nonchalantly comments on how he should probably find a hotel for the night. Tyler responds "Just ask" and Edward acts confused even though he wants to ask for a place to stay the night. "Is it a problem for you to ask?" Tyler says, and Edward reluctantly asks for a place to stay.

Throughout the movie Edward is typically constrained in his behavior, while his alter ego Tyler is the opposite. Most notably Edward has a love interest Marla, though Edward is too insecure to establish a relationship with her. Tyler on the other hand, has no problems with it and throughout the movie is involved in a rampant love affair with her.

The most remarkable part of the movie is when Edward finds out that Tyler is really his alter ego and not another person.

Tyler Durden says to himself:

"I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I'm smart, capable, and most importantly, I'm free in all the ways you wish you could be."


Tyler Durden is free of the social restraints that are holding his alter ego from being the best he can be.

The bums are free. Are you?