We treat bullying like it’s a disease, when in actuality, it’s a symptom.
We have an addiction to egotism, power, violence, and negative attention. We see it in kids, but they learn it from adults.
Look at the internet: trolls, griefers, snarky bloggers, passive aggressive Facebookers, forum contrarians, a whole host of people that derive their main sense of self esteem through being a dick on the web. These aren’t 12 year old kids, we have dudes here in their 50’s that do this.
Look at politics: People bully each other via politics all the time, both in the public debates, with talking heads shouting down calmer, more reasonable voices, and in legislation itself, with one group trying to make unreasonable demands of others, who are doing the same thing back. It’s all about the moral high ground, about the sanctimonious judgement of others, and the ability to feel like you’re somehow “better” than “those people”.
Look at sports: Putting aside the violence associated with our most popular sports (which certainly can be a positive channeling of aggression, and a public catharsis), look at how we align ourselves with arbitrary tribal groups, and then how we approach others of a different arbitrary group. Fights, riots, snarky smack talk, even shootings. Just because some dudes you don’t know who happen to be randomly associated with your general geographical area did that one thing with a puckballbat nominally better than the other dudes not from your general geographical area. Yet we use that to lord over others as if we ourselves carried the footbaseketpuck across the endgoalhomerunline. It’s not a celebration of human achievement in the face of adversity, it’s simply another way we can feel superior to other people.
Look at Reality TV: How much of Real Kardashian Bad Toddlers and Housemoms of Jersey Shore is people trying to feel cooler than the others on the show? Mantras like “haters make me famous” and “you wish your girlfriend was hot like me” show social status as a weapon, how men and women bully each other to grab some fleeting boost to their fragile egos. This is how we interact.
These are just a few of the ways we use social power and status along with violence and silencing to create this warped culture that rewards the very worst in all of us. By worshiping the crystal meth of egotistical narcissism, we get hooked on that feeling of being better than others, of triumphing over others, of pushing people around, of flexing our muscles both figuratively and literally. We as adults do this all day, every day. Niceness is weakness and insecurity. Kindness and vulnerability are for pussies. These kids should just be violence addicted meatheads and vicious Mean Girls, and then everything will balance out, right? Who cares how miserable that makes them as human beings.
So why are we surprised when our kids do it? And why is it that we all want 12 year olds to take responsibility for it when we refuse to? There’s silencing language and bullying all around us, and we all seem to use them.
The problem is that we just f***ing suck as humans. We’ve taken the easy road to material and social gratification, and left all that other stuff about caring and sharing crap back in our 90’s cargo pants, cuz that sh*t’s for wussies and tree hugging losers. We continually vacillate between over-protective everybody-gets-a-trophyism and suck-it-up-kid-I-walked-3000-miles-in-the-snowism. And this is the society it breeds. Either self entitled brats who are flummoxed to the point of suicide the first time life doesn’t cup their balls, or sociopathic megalomaniacs who run amok shitting on anyone and everyone in their quest to feel like the biggest dick in the room.
Bullies derive their motivation from ego, from defining themselves as violently powerful, in either a physical or a psychological sense. They don’t see their own worth in any terms other than power – as do their victims. This is why so many of the bullied grow up to be even bigger dicks themselves. They all learn that power and violence are the only measures of life, and that the only defining characteristic that matters is how you play the power game. Doesn’t matter if you have taken your nerd rage to succeed in business so you can shove it in people’s faces, or if you wield your sorority like a scythe to cut down “lesser girls” like so much bulimic wheat. The paradigm is the same, and the paradigm is entrenched in our culture. Until we deal with that, we will have bullying at all levels of society.