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Bullying 2.0

Tara DuncanSep 4, 2016, 12:39:35 PM

Originally published on Facebook ·Tuesday, December 29, 2015 (minor editing)

Prologue:  I wrote this for someone, but it may otherwise have some small value.

Bullying. Now there's a topic. As long as there have been people who were stronger, wealthier, in more "senior" positions, better armed, meaner, dumber, less emotionally stable, there has been "bullying". It has its own term, and there is evidence of activities that fall into this category for all of recorded history.  


Books and movies have immortalized this popular practice with the small kid who hires a bodyguard, waxes on and off to become a fighting force, or falls in green fluid to become an evil superhero. When I was a kid we had the toys that could kill you, and being "bullied" at one time or another was business-as-usual when you were growing up. There was no shortage of other kids who would criticize your parents, your body type, your ethnicity, your financial status, your intellect or perceived lack of it, your sexual status or preferences...anything and everything was fair game. Kids can even find a way to make fun of your name, or find a catchy nickname that does the job for them. I guess not much has changed, except possibly that the activity can be performed at arm's (or world's) length electronically - so efficient!  


Bullies are relentless and stupid, and they bond with others of their ilk to form a homogeneous force for tard. These small-minded are "people" who have little intelligence (comparatively), and are likely never going to accomplish anything new or interesting in their entire lives; but they seem to inherently know this and seek to bring others down to their levels. Wherever there is arrogance combined with feelings of inadequacy, there will be bullying. Bullies like to travel in packs - collective crowd mentality - to ensure they have the constant admiration and acceptance they need to validate and reinforce their bad behaviour.  


It is difficult to explain these concepts to children, teenagers and young adults. They are inexperienced socially, insecure, affected hormonally, or simply trying to find their place in the world. Family is taken for granted, but their peer group comprises their universe (for a time) of everything that matters. And when their universe turns against them, some literally take their own lives, preferring non-existence to the "pain" of being a social outcast.   Well, there's Darwinism in action. I can't help thinking that people in my generation were more resilient. Then again, some of us had the luxury of having parents who counseled us and helped us put things in perspective. Also, no internet.


Sadly, bullies of old, had to rely on word-of-mouth or badly spelled hand written notes, so I concede I'm only passingly familiar with Bullying 2.0.   Nevertheless, I'm going to go out on a limb here to postulate that bullies had a shitty upbringing, and the victims of this practice may also have been recipients of similar, but different, crappy upbringings. When you think about it, spending time with your children, reinforcing their self-concepts, helping them discover what's important, letting them know they're important to you, tutoring them to become inquisitive thinkers, would go a long way towards making them interesting, functional adults.


Excepting cases involving physical violence, a solid "who gives a shit attitude" and some rudimentary coping skills, go a long way to minimizing the impact of the average bully. They prefer the soft targets, anyway, being cowards themselves.   I do think that changing social perception to make bullying unacceptable is a worthy goal. If no one supports this practice, and I mean no one, the people who rely on this notoriety might find some other way to cope with their feelings of inadequacy. It might take several generations to work its way through the general population.  


For now, bullying is still part of our larger existence. In case you haven't noticed, it doesn't end when you reach puberty or adulthood. In every walk of life there is likely to be someone who will use his/her money, position, organization or circumstance, to berate or victimize others. Funny thing is, that in cases where individuals draw attention to these abuses, the rank and file still thinks it acceptable to vilify the accuser/victim/whistle blower. That one's on you, as you've apparently never grown up, preferring to sheepishly reinforce a self-fulfilling condition.  


In counteracting this scourge, there are a couple of things I think just don't work:  


The Safe Place. Yes, in educational institutions we now have areas that are designated as "safe". In life, there are no "safe" places. There really aren't. Convincing people there are is just stupid. You can find safety in yourself, your friends and family, but not in a place. I secretly suspect that the introduction of "safe" places is somehow linked to the advent of women with purple hair and Marx brothers eyebrows; or in the case of men who have been exposed to these fictional constructs...the man bun.  


The other thing I think doesn't work is the "call to authority" (for bullying not including physical threats). Teachers, law enforcement, school crossing guards, et. al. may be helpful when you're in their vicinity, but while these are their jobs, this is your life.   Make some friends. Find a hobby. Have some real conversations. Stop relying on "texting" as meaningful interaction. Don't believe every thing you read or hear. Social media sites are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. If you see someone being senselessly attacked or ridiculed on a social media site (and you're up to it), call in some friends and become the mother of all Internet trolls. Call in your family reinforcements if you are so inclined. Become a geeky, fighting force of people who ridicule and resist the attempts of bullies to get a foothold on your psyche. These people are unimportant in the larger scheme of things. If all else fails, turn off your phone or computer, or use it to learn or create something.  While it may be emotionally jarring to be disconnected from the collective, you might find it peaceful.  Above all, live to fight another day.   Anyone under the age of twenty will think this is boilerplate, bullshit advice from someone too old to understand your situation (21 +). I know this, because I felt exactly the same way at your age.


But the passage of time doesn't make the experience any less relevant; and if you survive to adulthood you may just have some coping skills to deal with the odious, manipulative pieces-of-shit your childhood bullies have become. Most bullies when faced with even moderate resistance, will wander off to find easier targets - if enough people treat them like the social pariahs they are, they may cry in their rooms (poetic justice), change jobs, live unfulfilling lives, or maybe, just maybe, give it up entirely and find something interesting and productive to do.