Joe Thomson Bullying and the pussification of society

Outrage over a scary “new” epidemic is reaching a critical mass. It’s this thing called bullying. It’s pretty scary and has claimed the lives of tens of people. We should all be on the lookout for bullies, and if you see one, murder them. They are bad and should be punished for their harsh words and intolerant attitudes.

Obviously, my flippant attitude towards bullies and bullying in the previous paragraph doesn’t accurately illustrate my true feelings on bullying; but they do reflect the anger I feel towards the way bullying is now dealt with in our shitty, paternalistic culture. The popular attitude towards bullying right now is that "it is wrong and we can fix it through raising awareness." While I don’t totally disagree, I have a problem with the way bullying has been thrust into the spotlight by victimizing the bullied and demonizing bullies.

To me that is a fairly elementary approach to a complex issue that involves a power structure (mostly germane to kids in school, but prevalent in adult institutions as well) made up of self-conscious, scared, unconfident people just trying to get by and be left alone. The media narrative of “bullying leads to suicide and other anti social behaviour, it needs to end NOW” does nothing to start a dialogue about the realities of human interaction, how to empower yourself in the face of bullying, and why kids or immature adults feel the need to lash out at their peers.

It’s become a surface issue, like stopping the depletion of the ozone layer or the petition to end SOPA. This is not a cause. This is not something that can be solved by raising awareness (mitigated, possibly). It is inherent in humans and so much more complex than good vs. evil. I was a bully, but I was also bullied and I feel my experience is similar to most humans on earth. That experience is an invaluable part of growing up and without it would leave little old me unable to cope with criticism, abhorrent personalities in the work place, teasing (good natured or otherwise) and the overall shittiness that comes with certain social interactions. I also regret bullying and can look back on my treatment of people in disgust, which only helps me understand myself better as an adult.

What will the next cause be? Stop Adultery! We all know it is wrong and hurtful; lets turn our ire towards adulterers. It’s silly, it can’t be stopped. How do we know this? Because adulterers have been publicly shamed for thousands of years and the behaviour doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere. 

I’m not suggesting that bullying is better or worse than adultery, only that it is complex and cannot be stopped by a few television ads and a documentary.

We can’t shield ourselves from bad things and we can’t protect our kids forever.  We will create a generation of entitled, selfish, unrealistic, unprepared people that will cower at the mere suggestion that they could do something wrong.

I believe the bully backlash comes from a place that is alive in all of us that remembers being bullied and wants to step in and stop it. We’re not compassionate for the kids of today: we’re coping with the pain that hasn’t left us through proxy. What a fucked up, selfish, species we are and if you don’t think that’s the case then answer me this: why do we cheer when we see videos of bullies being put in their place on youtube? Why do we have that satisfied feeling after watching a bully being stood up to? Why do we root for the little guy so passionately?  Because it’s an experience that was burned into our memories during our formative years that we’ve shelved until we can “do something about it”. The pain of being a victim and helpless obscures our judgment and we allow ourselves to become wrapped up in the narrative of “bully gets his/hers”. All of this pain blinds us to the fact that we’re watching one 13-year-old reach his breaking point and lash out physically on another 13 year old as we squeal with blood lust.  Our society has decided enough is enough and the time is now to put our childhood demons to rest, so look out snarky 12 year old girls and testosterone rich 11 year old boys. We’re coming for you.



You're smart.

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