Anyway, this got me to thinking about bullies and bullying; they having been frequent topics in the news (at least off and on) for quite a while now. In fact, for a number of years, it seems as though the “worst” thing, for a child, is to be considered a “bully.” We have seen major “anti-bullying” campaigns in schools and churches. We have laws against bullying in public and/or online. We have a seemingly never-ending stream of studies, etc., showing that bullying can be a precipitating cause for suicide, depression, drug abuse, low self-esteem and other undesirable behaviors. So, there’s lots of pressure to condemn bullies.
Now, none of these efforts appear to have actually stopped bullying, but it does make us feel good to pretend we are making a difference. Of course, then you turn on the TV and the first commercial you run across is the one for some gym where the “spin” class gives one of its members “the hiss of shame” because she was having trouble keeping the pace. If that isn’t bullying, I would be hard pressed to figure out what is. But, “It’s only a commercial, not real life!”
I think it may be necessary to point out that there have always been bullies! If one looks at stories (movies, TV shows, etc.) from the ancient myths from almost anywhere down to those of the present day, what could reasonably be referred to as “bullies” are all over the place. After all, we SAY that we don’t like bullies, but, if one looks around just a little, we do tend to reward them. Especially in men! For a MAN to push others around and force them to do what he wants them to do, makes him a “strong, forceful leader.” Of course, if a WOMAN behaves this way, she’s a “mean, nasty bitch who doesn’t know her place,” at least to many. If one even suggests that she is simply “a woman who has resorted to using the tactics which are constantly used against her by her male, co-workers,” it isn’t viewed as an adequate justification for her behavior. Nor does it alter the fact that bullying behavior is just bullying behavior, no matter who does it.
I suspect that much of this sort of thing probably comes from our traditional methods of child-rearing, and the images (probably unrealistic ones) that everyone is always supposed to be gentle, kind, loving and sweet as a child, yet, boy’s bad behavior (temper tantrums) are often excused as just meaning that “The little tyke just wants his money’s worth, just like his father.” Fathers, of course, are always assumed to be great examples of “proper, masculine leaders.” Looking up “leader” at Business Dictionary.com provides the definition: “A person or thing that [sic.] holds a dominant or superior position within its [sic.] field and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others.”, which may be ungrammatical (but, perhaps, good grammar isn’t considered important in business) and would seem to be widely accepted. It’s probably worth noting that this definition of “leader” emphasizes exercising “… control or influence over others.” It doesn’t say anything about not behaving in a manner which could be described as being a bully in order to establish or maintain that control and/or influence. But I don’t wish to get into the “Me, too” stuff in this post.
Now, the traditional, schoolyard (male) bully, the one who dominates the other kids, demands tribute in the form of lunch money, cuts into lines, etc. (the Grover Dills of the world) is universally condemned, at least until he becomes a domineering and overbearing adult, at which point he becomes a “leader.” And, the female equivalent (the leader of the dominant girl’s clique in the school [the “pretty people”]) may be equally disliked (always behind her back), but has to be appeased with statements about her perfection, beauty, talent, etc. It would seem that the female variation of this type has recently taken the form of “social media influencer.” That is at least after they achieve a certain number of “likes,” “follows,” etc., which makes them more “important” than those who just dominate sororities, country clubs, women’s clubs and other organizations which tend to use rumor, gossip, inuendo and back-stabbing (bullying) to assert their “power” over others, often, in fact, based largely on perceived wealth (frequently their husbands’).
I think that we, much too often, wish to believe that bullying is almost exclusively a “children’s” problem. Certainly, much of our discussion of what to do about bullies and bullying focuses on young people, probably because we hope to make the sort of behavior we associate with bullying less common and/or desirable among them in the hope that that will solve the problem for everyone. However, I’m pretty well convinced that we are being incredibly short-sighted. In this regard, I suspect that the so-called “social media” have helped spread, perpetuate, and even increase childish bullying behavior throughout our society.
I found what I think is a rather good dictionary definition of a bully. It says that a bully is, “a blustering, browbeating person, especially: one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.” I am NOT trying to suggest that I find this sort of behavior desirable or the kind of thing which I think should be rewarded. But, that’s the point!
The problem is that we DO reward this sort of behavior. I won’t suggest that all of our leaders engage in “blustering” and “browbeating.” Nor will I argue that all of our leaders are “habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.” No, I find that “leaders” tend to fall into two types: one type become leaders because they do things which others find admirable, so others tend to wish to be like them; the second type is the “bully,” who becomes a “leader” because he (it’s usually a male) is so insecure in himself that he has to dominate others in order to try to establish the sense of power which he believes he can only achieve by forcing others to do as he wishes. Since this need to dominate others seems to be based on his belief (and fear) of his own inadequacy, it is unlikely to ever be satisfied, creating a life-long bully.
As I look around at our “leaders,” be they political ones, “captains of industry,” media “stars” (including some so-called news reporters), even some clergy and other “religious” leaders, I see far too frequent examples of this, second type of “leader.” These are people who won’t discuss why they do what they do, nor do they just set a good example. No, these are the ones who simply bombard us with their opinions, desires, and dogma because “I’m better than you are because I’m bigger, smarter, stronger, and richer (That’s code for, more of a man, which is code for more virile.) than you and you should do what you’re told by your betters because they are richer, smarter and deserve to be more powerful that you are!” I find that highly offensive, especially in political personalities. I can usually simply ignore this sort of behavior in other circumstances, but political behavior involves the risk of war, death, and destruction. It was the purpose of our Constitution (I believe), to provide a system that was supposed to be prevent bullies from achieving too much power. Unfortunately, I’m concerned that that Constitution is just being ignored in order to establish a political power base for certain ideas on the basis of “Trust me. I know what’s best.”
I beg your pardon. I’ve read the Constitution. I don’t need ANYBODY (left, right or screwy) to tell me what it says. I read it as saying that, as a citizen, I am no better, but no worse, than any other citizen. I also see that it says that the job of our political leaders is to engage in the business of our country for the benefit of “We, the People…” not to engage in blindly following the dictums of any political party, religion or demagogue who happens to come along. I think that what it’s trying to say is that we expect our leadership at all levels and in all areas to admit that they, too, are imperfect people who should actually consider, discuss, debate and act based on their best judgement as to what’s in the country’s best interests (i.e. the interest of the majority of the people); NOT what is going to be most popular among members of some political party, religious, racial, or ethnic group, or be most likely to get me re-elected most easily, or achieve the most “likes” on Facebook. That might demonstrate real leadership. What we have now is mostly just “feed my ego!”
I’m tired of being bullied by my so-called leaders. As an employee of the State of North Carolina, I tried to be very careful regarding expressing political opinions in the classroom, or as part of my official duties. That wasn’t my job as an educator. My job was to explain the facts as we currently understood them and help provide the tools to understand them. I’ve also tried (usually successfully) to keep too most political opinion out of this blog. However, I am very sick of the sort of stupid misbehavior which we see all too often from too many of our so-called “leaders.” I can feel the rumblings of the Tasmanian Devil which Shepherd suggested resides within me and that doesn’t really make me happy. I know that just beating up the “jerks” is unlikely to solve the problem. But I also know that we, as a society, are NOT going to stop bullying in schoolyards until we, as a society, stop rewarding it in politics and business.
Perhaps we, as a society should sentence proven liars, bullies and braggarts to have their photograph taken while wearing a tee shirt which says, “I think I’m >u” and having that picture posted to all forms of social media for a period of time, say fifteen days. This would be comparable to the tactic of posting pictures of persons soliciting prostitutes on social media which has been used in some places.
I admit that that would be a form of social “shaming,” another type of behavior which is, I think, properly frowned upon. On the other hand, it’s not like branding them or cutting off an ear, finger or hand. Compared to prison, it’s pretty mild. It’s not even a fine! It’s just a way of letting the public know that this person behaved in a manner which is socially unacceptable and got caught at it, so we are making the public aware of the fact that this behavior might be repeated by this individual. Yes, that IS a form of “social shaming,” but the alternative would seem to be to just let this behavior go, or to suggest a “time out,” which doesn’t seem to have proven very effective and is, of course, also a form of social shaming.
I adapted this idea from a Non Sequitur comic strip published a few weeks ago when a bragging, self-proclaimed “genius” (see below) appeared wearing a shirt with “>u” printed on it. I thought it capsulized the basic “bully” attitude quite neatly.