It really should come as no surprise that I was bullied in school, though I know a lot of people have had it far worse than I did.
From simplicity’s sake, I’ve reduced the bullying stories I’ve heard to three basic classes:
1. Sporadic or short-term bullying. This bullying lasts less than two years and/or involves fewer than five bullies. A typical case: “After moving to a new school, two girls were mean to me for about four months, but they got bored after Christmas.”
2. Long-term bullying. These kids are consistently at the bottom of the social totem pole, for years on end. They have few to no friends; most other kids are indifferent to cruel toward them.
3. Intense bullying. The bullied child is beaten; assaulted; raped; frequently told they should commit suicide; or frequently threatened with physical violence, rape, or murder.
My own experiences lie in Type 2. I can only imagine what a hellscape life has been for folks subject to Type 3.
If there’s anything I hate, it’s lies, and oh boy, do grown ups ever lie to children about bullying. The lie generally goes something like this:
“Everyone gets bullied in school! You just have to learn how to deal with it. If you ignore the bullies, they’ll get bored and stop. And besides, they’re only bullies because they feel bad about themselves. If you could just make them feel better about themselves, you’d become magic friends!”
“I hate like the gates of Hades the man who says one thing and holds another in his heart.” Achilles, Iliad 9.314.
From a recent article in the NY Post:
- About a quarter, or 24 percent, of girls said they were bullied compared to 20 percent of boys.
- A higher percentage of white students — 24 percent — said they were bullied than black, Hispanic or Asian students. Twenty percent of black students said they were bullied compared to 19 percent of Hispanic students and 9 percent of Asian students.
Some lies, like the ones about how animals are kinder and more altruistic than humans, are basically sentimental slop that’s probably harmless. But the lies about bullying are a slap in the face to a kid who’s already been slapped in the face, and so deeply offensive.
Bullying is not just something sad kids do to entertain themselves. Bullying is an emergent feature of the control mechanisms of the social order. Or to put it another way, where there is hierarchy, someone is at the bottom, and that is the kid who gets bullied. Bullies, by definition, are higher-status than the kids they bully, because without status, they could not get away with bullying.
And bullies do not have low self esteem; people with low self-esteem hole up in their bedrooms and don’t talk to other humans except via the internet. Bullies have so much self-esteem, they believe themselves entitled to violently dictate the entire social order around themselves.
Seriously, have you ever looked at a picture of Hitler and thought, “If only he’d been a little more self-confident, he wouldn’t have invaded Poland.”?
High status comes in many forms, such as height, wealth, or gregarious aggression. Low status also comes in many forms, like being trusting, short, or shy. Low status people generally remain low status even after switching schools, ignoring the bullies, or otherwise following adult advice.
In a conflict between two people of unknown status, we can tell which is which by the excuses others make for their behavior. If the low-status person is the aggressor, then there will be virtually no debate. The majority of people, especially the elites, will all agree that the low-status person is to blame. If the high status person is the aggressor, then even a neutral finding that the low-status person is not at fault will not be believed, and the elites will make every excuse they can to rationalize the high-status person’s behavior. This is because the elites agree with the actions of the high-status person in putting the low-status person in their place and so preserving the social order.
Man is a political animal, after all.
Yes, I am talking about grown ups, not just kids. Bullying doesn’t go away just because you leave school. It is a fundamental aspect of human social relations. It probably can’t be eliminated, and it’s possible that trying to fully eliminate bullying would just backfire in some horrible way. We should, however, use our understanding of bullying to identify who is–and isn’t–at the bottom of the social totem pole.
(To be clear: we live in a nation of 320 or so million people (or I do, anyway.) There does not exist some great big ladder with each and every person’s absolute position ranked relative to everyone else. Different groups, times, places, etc., have different rankings; your status may be very different in Mississippi than in Oregon, or different if you’re hanging out among college students or church ladies.
Indeed, if we had some sort of absolute system, we might have less bullying, as status-displays and making sure the outgroups stay down could be less necessary.)
But let’s return to the photos at the top of the post and see where this theory leads us.
In the photo on the right, Elizabeth Eckford was one of the first nine black students to break the segregation barriers and attend a white school in Little Rock, Arkansas. While we cannot exactly call the Supreme Court a neutral, unbiased group of robots immune to human passions or politics, they are supposed to try, and they found that black students like Elizabeth were in the right, and segregationists were in the wrong.
As we can see, Elizabeth continued being the target of bullying by higher-class whites, despite an official pronouncement in her favor. At this time in Arkansas, the Feds might be able to force integration, (the Feds, after all, have the bomb,) but this did not change the local social situation. Had the whites been low-status, they would not have been allowed to bully the black students, nor would the community at large have supported or excused their behavior.
In the photo on the left, Black Lives Matter advocates stormed the stage at presidential hopeful and Senator Bernie Sanders’ recent speech in Seattle, WA.
Here are some screenshots of statements from BLM supporters on the subject:
(from the BLM Website.)
While the BLM folks are truthful about their ultimate agenda, nowhere is there an honest admission of what is clearly visible in the photograph: a woman screaming in Sanders’ face. That is hate, pure and simple.
Obviously Sanders, as an individual, has more power than his hecklers. But his social category–old white men–is not a category that enjoys high social status. Had Sanders’s hecklers been, say, NAMBLA representatives instead of BLM supporters, it is unimaginable that they would have been allowed to take over the stage. Those whom society hates are not allowed to run rough-shod over others; those at the bottom of the social order do not get to act like they aren’t at the bottom.
If you find yourself at the bottom of society, you have several options:
- Change your behavior to project higher status.
- Create/join a society of people like yourself where you aren’t at the bottom.
If powerful people are lying to you, don’t care when you are hurt, or otherwise making excuses for why people like you should be mistreated, then that is a sign that you are low status.
Sanders, of course, cannot leave or change: his political philosophy supports the social structure.