The most ridiculous thing I could start out saying here is that I don’t enjoy violence in my entertainment. Many of my favorite television shows and movies and books have some pretty epic gore in them, and I don’t really see a problem with that. I even enjoy crafting those scenes, when a book I’m writing calls for them. You don’t have to press me to admit that I like watching the baddies get murdered by the goodies, or even tortured under special circumstances. Hell, I’ll proclaim it proudly. This may be the result of me growing up where I did, and having the options to click through that I did; but I wouldn’t know anything about that.
They don’t call it programming for nothing, after all.
What I don’t get is this growing trend to demonize bullies wherever we may find them, followed closely by the trend to find them even if they aren’t really there. Since micro-aggressions are becoming more minute than ever, I’m sure to unknowingly sprinkle them about generously during this post; so we won’t talk about that. Instead we need to look at where bullies come from. Otherwise we’re trying to get rid of all the kittens without doing anything about the cats.
I got bullied as a kid; it sucked back then, but I’m glad for it now. It pays to be a little wary of people, whether they’re full grown or not; those early encounters helped me develop the radar that has since helped keep me out of trouble. Those experiences also gave me a little deeper insight into what was really going on with the people doing the bullying. Since I lived in a small town, word got around whenever anything happened or nothing did. We all knew the kids doing the bullying were getting knocked around at home, and the worst bullies were the ones being abused the most.
It was just common knowledge.
The few times that I ventured down the path of being a bully myself, it was always after some bigger kid had pushed me around. It’s a natural reaction for a child to have; it was why I was being bullied in the first place, after all. Some kid’s mom or dad pushed them around physically or verbally, and they saw me sitting there looking all happy on the playground; their natural reaction was to wipe that smile off my face, and my natural reaction was to go push someone even smaller than me around. The fact that I quickly realized that it made me feel worse instead of better surely had something to do with that programming of mine: I had plenty of opportunities to feel in control of my life, so that desperate grasping at it didn’t feel rewarding at all.
Clearly, it would have been different if my home life had been.
I understood that, as a kid. It took some real life experience before I did, but that’s how we learn our lessons. After that I moved on to defending people from bullies, but even that felt off somehow. Throwing a kid into a locker because I just saw him throwing some other kid into a locker didn’t make me feel any better than bullying someone smaller because I had been bullied by someone bigger. I was shocked when I first had the realization, after saving some kid from someone bigger than him but smaller than me…
Bullying a bully is still bullying!
When I became an adult, I started studying life and people and how things work. The more I learned about how the brain functions and how habits are formed, the more I realized that most of us don’t have nearly the amount of free will we would like to think we do. Humans are a very reactive bunch, so much so that we think many of our reactive behaviors are our own ideas. While some people think a woman who has been drinking can’t consent to sex even if it’s with her partner, others think that bullies are somehow making deliberate choices when they bully someone.
Actually, it’s probably the same people; which makes even less sense.
I can understand one extreme of the behavioral spectrum, which says everyone is a product of their environment and genetics. This view demands that we treat everyone as victims, and acknowledge that no behavior exists in a vacuum. It also points out that the worst thing we can do is punish someone for playing out their pattern; all we do by incarcerating offenders without rehabilitating them is entrench them more firmly on that path. If every crime that was committed was seen as a soul in pain acting out, we could treat transgressors like the people they are and use rehabilitation to get them back on the right track. Instead we cut them off from the normal world, even after they get back out in it; and we give them very few options other than offending again.
The other end of the spectrum makes sense as well; but that means everyone has to take full responsibility for their thoughts, actions and emotions. In a world where expressing depression or dissatisfaction was as punishable as expressing anger or frustration, not many of us would be left on the outside. Yet they both come from the same place, even if sad people don’t usually commit the same crimes that angry folks do.
Or do they?
It turns out that virtually every modern day mass shooting has been carried out by someone either taking antidepressants or withdrawing from them. While this sounds like a drug problem to anyone paying attention, it has been mistaken for a gun problem by those who aren’t. So maybe sad people are the worst among us, and need to be locked up first. Or maybe we should stop bullying the bullies, and try to get to the root of their problems instead of punishing them for their genetics and upbringing. There might be a better place somewhere in the spectrum, but I daresay it isn’t the spot we’re collectively sitting at now.
I stopped seeing the bad guys in life a long time ago, and even tried to start understanding where the ones in my entertainment were actually coming from. More and more, I find myself enjoying stories where it’s hard to tell the antagonist and the protagonist apart; that’s more like real life, where everyone has faults and good in them at the same time. I still like to see the baddie who has been pushing everyone around for the first two acts meet their demise in the third act, but I also realize that before the movie started that person had been pushed around at some point themselves. Probably a lot, if they’re a real baddie. More often than not, I wonder if compassion might have worked better than bullets; but our heroes use their guns in this country, not their hearts.
One day people might look back and see us as savages, as we tend to do when we look at our ancestors. This will surely be one of the examples they have, the way we punish people who can’t control themselves in one way and enable people who can’t control themselves in another. They might even wonder why a country as great as America had such barbaric laws and methods of enforcing them, especially when so many other countries were having great success with giving their people more freedoms and rehabilitating violent criminals instead of simply locking them up. Let’s beat them to the punch, shall we?
Next week we’ll talk about that, in a post called…
‘Some rehabilitation actually works!’
I hope you come back for it!
Thanks for reading!
All the best,