Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bullying the bullies?

I admit it: when Anonymous announced they'd found Amanda Todd's primary bully, I cheered. A few days later, I was forced to retract my cheering when it turned out the guy they'd collared was innocent. Of that crime, anyway, though he's facing charges for something similar. Anonymous seems to think this is a-ok. I don't.

Now Anonymous has a new bully/victim. Is he the guy who bullied Amanda?  I don't know. I doubt they really do, either. And that's a bit chilling. You have to figure they found something suggestive in his computer, but at the same time, this is getting perilously close to the same mentality that has forced teachers to refrain from touching or especially hugging their pupils under any circumstances...or the not-a-joke going around that nowadays, you need specific, written and signed documentation detailing every step you can and can't take sexually with any new partner. Women may scoff at that...but trust me, you can destroy a random man's life just by saying he raped you.

I have a wildly overinflated, knee-jerk sense of consequence, coupled with an idealist streak a mile wide. It's not a very good combination to have. I'm the guy who believes people found committing acts of vandalism or arson should have their own property destroyed or burned in return. Which feels great until the thug/pyro also becomes a thief and possibly a murderer.

As for those who taunt and beat on helpless classmates--yeah, there's a spiritually juvenile part of me that wants to beat them to a pulp. It's not (just) simple revenge. Really, it's not. I can't understand why such people don't get that bullying hurts. I shouldn't have to hit you with a hammer for you to intuitively grasp that you shouldn't hit other people with hammers. But if you really don't understand this simple truth, there's a part of me that would like to demonstrate. Here, see this hammer? bash Yeah, it don't feel so good, does it? Just call me Mr. Comes-Around.

But if I was to embark on that path, even if I could somehow evade prison for longer than ten minutes, the fact is I'd be hitting an awful lot of people with an awful lot of hammers. Because our society rewards bullying. Many of the world's super-rich got that way, in whole or in part, by bullying their "inferiors". The entire entertainment industry is built on ritual humiliation, which is why I keep popular culture at arm's length if not further away from myself.

I take great pride in the fact I have watched less than three minutes of so-called 'reality' television in my entire life. It's getting harder, since the 'reality' virus is infecting more and more channels. The Food Network is increasingly full of profane, angry men telling other men how useless they are. The various incestuous relatives of American Idol keep vacuuming up ratings, and somehow I doubt many viewers are actually watching because of the four good singers out of every sixteen. No, they want to see dreams stomped on. They want to see someone with the courage to get up and sing in front of millions of people have that courage belittled and mocked. For every Susan Boyle who improbably bubbles to the top, there are a dozen people with lovely voices who are charged and convicted of the heinous crime of being un-telegenic. Cue the tears.
And network comedies? Please. Almost all of them milk pain for laughs.  Pain is not funny. If you think it is, let me introduce you to my friend Mr. Ball Peen. Or if you'd prefer a less hands-on approach, step into any schoolyard and watch a bully working over his victim. Look at his friends: they're smiling, laughing, having a grand old time. Put yourself in the victim's shoes. Still funny? Didn't think so.

I'm at a loss as to how our 'civilization' come to the conclusion that bullying people is admirable. Oh, the social Darwinists will say it's simple survival of the fittest, and I'd question their definition of fitness.  We can't all be alpha males, after all, and if you really want to look at things from an evolutionary perspective, shouldn't we value each individual's contribution, in the name of diversity?

We pay lip service to that concept, but judging from our consistent choices in entertainment, lip service is all it is.

One of the world's biggest religions centers around a man who advised us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, and not to judge anyone. According to the stories, at any rate, this man practiced what he preached, asking forgiveness for his killers even as he was dying. Somehow, his entire philosophy has been upended by a sizeable contingent of his supposed followers, who spew their hatred of anyone who doesn't think exactly as they do. And I won't even mention that other religion, supposedly named for peace (but actually a synonym for submission), that is responsible for more than thirty thousand known terrorist attacks and murders in the past twelve years. Hey, bullying people is great fun when you have God on your side. And if you kill them, so what? One less infidel in the world.

But whatever the atheists might say, you don't need religion to justify bullying people. Any difference will do. As Ollie (Toby Jones) says in The Mist (2007), "As a species, we are fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room together, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another."

I got kind of off track, there--this is supposed to be about whether bullying the bullies is a good idea or not. I vote "or not". Bullying, like most 'despicable' acts, is usually not done out of real outward malice, even though the victim and the bystanders will definitely think otherwise, and so might the bully. This behaviour nets the bully various social benefits he (or she--please don't think I'm ignoring female bullying, which is in many ways worse) is unwilling or unable to attain any other way. Rewards such as attention, camaraderie (always so much nicer to be on the inside...take it from somebody who's been outside of practically every inside there ever was), respect, even worship: that heady brew is undeniably intoxicating. Bullying the bully, in a weird way, legitimizes bullying. "What you did was wrong, but it's okay for us to do it to you because you did it first." Nuh-uh, I reject that.

And there's the possibility, as with Anonymous, that your one man judge/jury/executioner team has the wrong perp. What then? You've quite possibly ruined someone's life for no good reason. Talk about bullying. On we go up the chain: who bullies Anonymous for their bullying anti-bullying actions? This way: madness..

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