Thursday, March 20, 2014

Let's Pretend We Don't Like Bullies

Here’s the problem. Unless you were the one being bullied, you probably do have to pretend. Yes, I said that. Now put down the pitch forks and follow me for a minute. In society the ‘bullies’ are unanimously the popular people while the bullied are the unpopular people. Do you know why that is? Because people like the popular people, thus making them popular, and people don’t like the unpopular people, thus making them unpopular. To ask society to dislike bullies is, in fact, asking it to do something no society in the history of the world has ever accomplished: dislike popular people. It’s like asking someone to invent a square circle, a purple shade of yellow, or dehydrated water. Popular people get to bully because they are well liked and their victims are not. It has not one lick to do with what the unpopular person wears, behaves like, looks like, etc (although any/all of those may very well have to do with *why* they are unpopular instead of simply not popular, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with why they are bullied). It has to do 100% with the fact that popular people have an underdeveloped sense of self paired with an insanely high sense of self-esteem. In other words, they have no idea who they are so they see anyone disagreeing with them as an attack but they also think they utterly deserve to be liked by everyone just because they are alive. This combination creates people who attack others to stabilize their own position in the ‘herd’. Since their peers 1) mostly suffer from the same problem and 2) are afraid the alpha personality will be turned towards them if they don’t toe the line, they spend their time catering to the popular people. This is not an age thing; it is not a school thing; it is not a culture thing. It’s a human thing. The majority of people, not kids, not girls, not men, not adults, but people, might think the concept of bullying is wrong, because *they* don’t want to be bullied, but when it comes to applying that belief, they are far more interested in what others might think of them to actually enforce anti-bullying. Of course people will change which side they are on, the self-assured 6 year old who could care less what the popular kid in class said about him may become the insecure 21 year old who is mortified that someone he barely knows might think him a ‘sissy’. The playground bully might become the secure college kid who is horrified by his past behavior. The thirty year old manager who can’t bare being proven wrong about anything and steals everyone else’s hard work, might become the 60 year old executive who now understands his self-worth isn’t predicated upon whether he’s perfect (although power being power that tends to happen the other way around). There might be slightly more 60 year olds than 16 years olds, slightly more 16 year olds than 6 year olds, and slightly more 106 year olds (comparatively speaking) than 60 year olds who has figured out how to be comfortable in themselves and only care about what those with importance in their life think. Because don’t get me wrong, carrying *only* about what *you* think is equally narcissistic as caring what *everyone* thinks. But eventually, hopefully, you learn it doesn’t matter if everyone finds you attractive, as long as your spouse does, don’t matter if everyone finds you smart, as long as your boss thinks you can do your job, doesn’t matter if everyone finds you friendly, as long as you’ve a friend, etc. Of course age does help maturity, but it does not grant maturity, and different people need wildly different lengths of time to reach comparable levels of maturity. But in the totality of humanity those that have figured this out are in the minority. You want to end school bullying in a month? Have every teacher and administrator tell every bully they see that bullying is not tolerated the first time they see it/it’s brought to their attention, the second time they see it haul the bully into the office, make them stay after school, write ‘I will not bully’ 1,000 times, and kick them out of all extracurricular activities for the rest of the year (this part is critical because it lowers their social standing and therefore their effectiveness as a bully). The third time they see it suspend the child and inform the parents that any further bullying will result in immediate, permanent expulsion and all records about the bullying turned over to the victim’s family in case the family wishes to pursue a restraining order, civil, or legal proceedings (because most bullying is de-facto criminal). A few things would happen, the schools would be populated by only well behaved students who don’t care what other’s thought and were just interested in learning (or at least those who are smart enough to shut up and act like it), every school would lose the bulk of their varsity sports teams, most of their rich kids whose parents donate all those pretty green things, all their clique leaders, most of the student government, and a great many of the most popular teachers’ favorite kids (the unpopular teachers tending to like those who are actually in school to learn not to win a popularity contest). Since no school would even consider shooting itself in the foot like that, no one is going to actually do anything about the bullying we see in schools. ‘We’ like the bullies too much, and the victims too little. Another way to effectively stop *physical* bullying is to offer a free self-defense course to everyone who is a victim of bullying (such is already offered by some pretty famous gyms and professional fighters and has done wonders for bully problems for the kids who complete the courses). It won’t stop the verbal attacks, it won’t depopulate the schools of all the popular kids, but it will keep those popular kids from laying a hand on the unpopular kids. Because people do not attack those whom they know will put them on their face in the middle of the cafeteria. But then, you’d also have to make self-defense legal in the schools, which right now it is not. In the vast majority of schools it doesn’t matter if four big football players are beating the snot out of one not-yet-hairy sophomore, if the sophomore throws even one punch back at his attackers he’ll be treated as equally ‘guilty’ of fighting and be expelled. Actually, real world scenarios show that the unpopular kid who defended himself from the bully is likely to receive a far harsher punishment than the popular bully. BECAUSE THE AUTHORITIES LIKE THE BULLY. Almost no one cares if a kid that no one likes get a bloody nose or a broken arm, or his property stolen or destroyed, as long as the popular kid can throw a football, look cute in a prom dress, makes a great picture with a pompom, has a parent who sits on the school board, or a father who plays golf with the principal. But they very much care if a broken arm keeps someone from throwing that football or if that black eye mars that pretty face. We, as a society, don’t care. Societies as a whole don’t care. Only popular people are worthy of the victim’s spotlight, so we’ll highlight a couple of ‘newsworthy’ bullying that falls into the greater PC political ideology of the day which hasn’t trickled fully into the mindset of all 10 year olds yet (or make one up if we can’t find any), utterly ignoring all the rest of the bullying that happens every day, and make some pretty noise about how we don’t like ‘bullying’ while doing our level best to keep the bullies in positions of power because they’re just so darn likeable! And the victims, well, nobody likes them anyway, they probably did something to deserve it, like get an A in a hard course, tell someone they shouldn’t be getting drunk underage, or *gasp* wear a slightly atypical accessory to school. Meanwhile, if you actually *do* hate bullies, not the vague concept of bullying, do something about it. First, REMOVE vulnerable children from environments where bullying is encouraged, first and foremost the public school system, until and unless they are sufficiently strong in mind and body to not care about being bullied. Second, teach your children self-defense and promise you will stand behind them if they beat the crap out of someone who hit them first (or, depending upon your temperament, put them in a submissive and thus humiliating but non-injurious hold maintaining until the bully backs down or authorities arrive), regardless of what the bully-loving authorities threaten, and teach them to be secure enough in their sense of self that they don’t care what something says about them. Thirdly, protect your children, if they are being bullied before number two is finished, take care of it. Go to the principal, remove your children from the situation, go to the other parents, go to the police, go to the police again, and again, and again, go to an ADA, call them 40 times every day, get a lawyer, move to another city, etc, etc, etc. DO NOT simply assume you’ve ‘done everything’ and there ‘isn’t anything’ you can do to make it stop and your kid just has to ‘put up with it’. And don’t tell your kid they should be the ones to change. They can’t do anything to stop the bullying by ‘changing’ something immaterial to the cause of the bully, which has absolutely nothing to do with what they are wearing, achieving, talking like, or looking like, and everything to do with the fact that they are unpopular. Which is a good thing, being unpopular means you’ve raised a kid who isn’t so insecure they feel necessary to bully *other* kids just to secure their social standing. If your kid is being bullied, congratulations, you haven’t raised a bully, now make sure it stops until they are ready and able to deal with it both physically and emotionally, or they may revert to said behavior to make the pain stop. Hint, if they come home crying they aren’t ready yet. If they come home rolling their eyes about what some idiot said today, they’ve got it handled. We can’t stop bullying, because the majority of the population, *ANY* population, will always support the bullies. It’s a fact of life. What we can do is give our children the tools to be survivors, not victims, and to protect them until that time. So instead of pretending society doesn’t like bullies, which is absurd as a square circle, let’s just focus on whether we as individuals are ready to grow past the immature reliance upon other’s for our sense of self-worth that makes bullies successful, and decide that we as individuals won’t put up with bullying or leave our kids to be victims. It won’t stop bullying, people who decide to actually make that decision will always be in the minority of the overall population, but it will help protect you and your children from bullies, which is as much as we can ever logically hope when confronted with the evils of society. Or, you can go on liking bullies, your kids might be one someday. I don’t care, because I could care less what a bully says, and I’ll make sure to protect my kids until they don’t either. And any bully stupid enough to physically attack me or mine, well, let’s just leave it at there will be professionals of one form or another involved.