My Dad explained to me, many years ago that the way life worked was:
Dad gets bullied at work, so comes home and beats up or yells at Mom, who passes the beating onto the oldest child, who sends the beating down the line in descending age order, the kids to the dog to the cat to the birds, who then poop on Dad’s car which starts the cycle over.
We are often told that people who abuse were abused, as if it absolves them or makes their abuses comprehensible. I tend to beleive that people who have been abused are less likely to abuse others, partly because they know what it feels like too well and partly because it’s harder to cast off that victim role. But, to any rule, there’s exceptions and while claiming childhood abuse is a boilerplate defense lawyer tactic, it will on occasion be true. But it’s still not a mitigating factor and should probably be considered an aggravating one.
It makes sense in the same counter intuitive way that men who are politically or religiously powerful are the ones who most likely seek out dominatrix’s to dominate them in the sexual arena or who are caught with regular sex workers or in adulterous and often gay affairs, financial scandals and other activities at odds with their powerful persona. Being powerful or righteous in public leads to submission and participation in what you are publically against in private.
So a person who seeks to bully others at work or school are likely powerless in their private life, at the mercy of another bigger bully; so being bullied on one arena in life results in a power balance restoration of being a bully in another arena of life.
So the real question is, why do some people who are bullied not become bullies in other arenas, and instead, stand up against the bully?
By refusing to allow the bully to diminish or undermine your sense of power, you do not need to seek compensation for its loss by bullying somewhere and someone else – you hold onto your power and face down the bully.
The education and understanding that we need to teach is that bullies should not be feared, if anything, they should be pitied – compassionately if at a young age and less so for adult bullies who have been able to refine their bully tactics for far too long and with much human wreckage in their wake.
Children are less capable actors than adults and being a threatening, intimidating and undermining people is something that any adult is capable of reasoning out is not acceptable behaviour and that they are not children who think they are the centre of the universe and above all mortals and mortal law.
Adults should know better than to feel entitled to impose their will over other people and should know that respect is earned not bestowed, and that the responsibility of any power is to not abuse the trust that comes with power. We have a reason to expect that people put in a position of power, will not use the power for their own ends, but for the group that they are leading.
Too often, managers are hired for financial rather than people skills, and while it’s true that nothing united people like having a common enemy, it does not serve any interests for a workplace team to be united against the manager or any member of the team.
It only serves the individual interests of the one who sets the group against the other, to create a power struggle so they can feel powerful, when they have no power save from the position that they tenuously occupy and have clearly not deserved.
So, if we really want to end bullying in schools at work and in life generally, then each of us has to take the responsibility to stand against bullies and resist the harmonizing urge and become a bully elsewhere.
And, we have to stand against any bullying, whether directed at us or another person – for the hangman or bully can only do what bystanders allow them to do.
And the first thing that we must not allow them to do, is assert dominance and remove the sense of equality between the parties. Abuse has the effect of nullifying the equality between the parties because if people were meaningful equal, then neither has the right or even ability to smack down the other – especially without consequences and worse, to do so from within a systemic framework which protects the abusers rather than those that they abuse.
The abuser does not view their victims as equal to themselves and feels entitled to use whatever means necessary to assert dominance and the trauma of being or reduced – callous and even craven indifference – results in the victim’s being unable to re-assert equality status. Victims reach a point of being so exhausted by fending off, that they can no longer defend themselves, and merely maintaining takes all the effort previously needed for defense.
Which is why a “good defense is a strong offense” is a high cost option.
And that is the cost of fighting the good fight.
Otherwise, all we have is news of people who have taken their lives to escape the endless onslaught of bullies or who have returned to the school or workplace and taken out the bullies and bystanders before taking their own lives or suiciding by cop.
We need to stand together and say no more to bullies of any age and characteristics, no more victims of bullies, intolerance, discrimination, harrassment.
Because with all the legislation about equality and human rights, with all the workplace and school policies, we have only turned bullies into more sophisticated destroyers. Abusers already operate in ways that leave few traces of evidence and rarely occurs in sight of witnesses, so it’s not much harder for bullies to cover their reasons for bullying and making it that much harder for their victims to connect the behavior to discriminatory attitudes against women, gays, ethnicity, beliefs or other prohibited factors while leaving body size, appearance and many other factors not prohibited by human rights legislation.
I can’t help but think that bullying has gone far beyond the merely stronger vs the weaker, but has taken on a new dimension as a backlash against not being publically able to discriminate against groups of people, so intolerance becomes a one on one crusade, one victim at a time.
Bullies can only do what we collectively allow them to do and we have to stop them from driving children, teens and adults to ending their lives as the only means of escaping the bullies.
That’s the only way it can be better, we have to stop the bullies.
Callout to Whereismyreallife for this related video share: