Look, I’m not a psychologist and I have no concrete proof to offer up what I’m about to say, but as history has shown, I’m going to say it anyway.
The world needs wedgies.
Before I get labeled as an old schoolyard bully, let the record show that I was both a giver and a taker of getting the old tighty whiteys yanked up into a crevice. We didn’t call it bullying back in the day – we called it horseplay. When Mom found a Fruit of the Loom in the laundry with the elastic waistband detached from the cloth, she didn’t use the rotary phone and have the operator connect her to parents, teachers or principals. She usually tossed them in the trash.
Somewhere along the line – my grandfather would blame the “long-haired hippie” generation – the definition of bullying changed. Getting ganged up on by a group of five and stuffed into a locker seemed to fit the bill. Having a kid 30 pounds heavier than you and who breathed primarily through his mouth ping your ear every day in English class probably qualified. Having the lout with the torn jean jacket and a chain connecting his pocket knife to his pants extract your lunch money every day definitely was. Today, it seems like anything said or done that hurts somebody’s feelings is bullying.
Maybe I’m supposed to be idealistic, revive the old Up With People organization and form a “Kumbaya” circle of happiness, but I’ve lived too long to realize life doesn’t work that way.
The problem is, I can’t advocate bullying for a couple of reasons. First is the expanding category of things that are considered bullying. So many actions now constitute an assault on people’s sensibilities, that I don’t even think I know what offenses are acceptable. The second reason is that it is completely un-PC. Spout off the virtues of bullying and you might as well sit in the corner with the people who mention Hitler, refer to Asian people as “Oriental,” and who fully recognize that most fat people don’t have thyroid issues.
Defend bullies in any form and you become the hulking figure in the denim jacket with the sleeves cut off taking someone’s lunch money. That’s because everybody has met a bully and didn’t like it.
Facing a bully wasn’t ever fun. It evoked a mixture of fear with creativity. You knew you could outsmart the fool, but you also knew physical and verbal harm were eventually coming your way. Sometimes you won, and sometimes you and your dignity and money were parted.
To me, it is a recurring part of life. To learn how to handle adversity, one actually has to face it. I’ve heard it said that kids can be cruel. So can adults. Kids can also be nice. And nice kids can even sometimes be cruel. You won’t change people from being mean by making everything mean a crime. You’ll just breed sneakiness and latent cruelty and you’ll have a whole generation of people who won’t know the first thing about how to respond when they find their underwear in a bunch.
We threw them away and moved on.
Today, it results in complete paralysis followed by wails that life isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair, no matter how hard we try to make it that way. Those who understand this will be the ones who “fare” the best.
Reach Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how to better bond elastic and cloth.