The Bully King
Saturday, 30 October 2010 09:33

The Ageless Bully and Other Primitive Adult Models: 

Bullying has been a major social peeve (read “cause”) for me throughout my adult life — and while my programs, community, police force and educational consulting, much of work as a psychotherapist, and two books on the subject have focused on adolescents — it has been no less painful to see blatant and accepted bullying among adults.

A week’s worth of television and radio chit chat (during periods of “no news”) follows each death of a child as a result of unremitting child or adolescent bullying. The earnest concern displayed by network commentators, combined with weigh-ins from a roster of opportunistic celebrities, evoke a few minutes of reflection from the very few who do not “remote” to flick the channel. Same old, same old, we are inured to the storylines. And, if we are honest, to the “accepted unacceptability” of bullying. It is a matter of course, and culture.

We tune out internecine, school or community power struggles the way we tune out distant wars and the nameless deaths that come with them. We do this not because bullying is that remote an experience, but rather, because it is all too familiar to us, even as adults. Bullying prevails in our work places, on sports teams, even in traffic. We bully in our homes, with our neighbors, and some of us even bully (or something close to it) our children. Bullying of some sort is the theme or sub-theme of the vast majority of action films, and robust individualism, along with a “Don’t mess with me!” attitude is a thing of worship. They constitute the requisite posture of the winner. The quiet, the meek, and the enduring are the rightfully designated losers.

Tough times bring out the worst in us, regardless of age. In the last two years, bullying behavior has increased among all age groups, and in most work and social environments. Force rises out of fatigue and frustration – especially from an undisciplined population, reared with both a sense of entitlement and a once tacit but still perverse set of rules about who wins, how and why. In short, our children do not have to look to television, film and other media to find blatant or subliminal encouragement for taking others down and out. Nor do they have to as little as turn their heads to see repeated endorsements of the cultural reality that weakness breeds hatred, and that hatred combined with bravado makes for a powerful winning side.

We live and persist in this reality. Finding and decimating weakness (or perceived weakness) is just par for the course of a potentially successful day in North American social environments. Bullying was not invented by children nor is it a nasty trend attached to the hula hoop in one era and the ipod in another. It is us, our conduct, our fears, and our ugly exertion of petty power that teaches our children to kill souls.
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