Is there a positive side to bullying?
(Note: be sure to see the comment
by a reader who was bullied and taunted in school when he was a child, and no adults came to his defense, and the ultimate effect of that experience on him.)
Alan Roebuck writes:
In a post titled “The positive side of bullying,” the blogger Bonald writes:”
Why to straight kids pick on queers? Because public homosexuality threatens to rob them of the masculine and feminine roles that inform and dignify their lives. Are they unnecessarily cruel and violent? Often they are. This is what always happens when private citizens take over a job that the government should be doing. Vigilante justice is always more vicious than lawful justice. When an adolescent boy decides he’s sexually “confused” and starts acting in a deviant way, it should be his parents and teachers that settle his confusion, telling him gently but firmly to stop acting like a fairy and be a real man.
I’m reminded of a Patrick Buchanan column from the late 1980s in which he said about protesters who were rudely jeering and holding mocking signs against a homosexual “pride” parade, “That’s the way a healthy society behaves that wants to preserve its existence.” I found that inspiring.
- end of initial entry -
But today, the newspaper in which I read that column, the New York Post, has gone over to the other side. Now the Post condemns as horrible bigots those who criticize the normalization of homosexuality in our society.
Jonah O. writes:
There is something that doesn’t sit right about taking the side of the bully, of the wild, red-faced fist-shaking mob. Attempts to frame it as a weird, counter-intuitive form of good seem too similar to the liberal arguments in favour of obvious evils and dysfunctions—as liberals always have a some strange inversion by which bad behaviour becomes justified (oppression etc). It also makes it too easy for traditionalists to be seen and portrayed as irrational, crazed, vindictive with-trial spectators. I don’t think Bonald’s formulation is good for anybody.
We don’t have to call it good to understand that when the institutions of a society stop defending that society’s norms, the ordinary, unsophisticated members of that society, left without leadership that validates its norms, are left with rougher types of response to the disorder that has been released.
GA, a female reader, writes:
“When an adolescent boy decides he’s sexually ‘confused’ and starts acting in a deviant way, it should be his parents and teachers that settle his confusion, telling him gently but firmly to stop acting like a fairy and be a real man.”
Bonald should not expect thanks from his future wife.
This is nuts. Heterosexual boys don’t decide to be gay, because it’s so much fun being beaten up by bullies. And bullies aren’t traditionalists responding to disorder, just thugs who pick on the weak. Shame on you for excusing them.
I’d say it depends. If it’s serious bullying, threats, intimidation, then I agree, that can’t be allowed. But what if we’re talking about milder kinds of taunts, and this is built up into “bullying”?
Further, we cannot fairly consider this situation without considering the larger context. What has released all this bad behavior? A mad society which liberates every kind of behavior that once would have been forbidden; that among things tells children that there is this thing called homosexuality and that they might be homosexuals and if they feel that they are, they should feel free to act it out and no one has the right to object. So the society creates this liberated behavior, but then it turns out that the liberation is only on one side.
This goes back to what I was arguing a couple of weeks ago. In such a mad society, there is no solution. The only solution is a return to traditional norms.
Whose traditional norms and values?
You might disapprove of my departures from tradition. I am so low- maintenance that sometimes people have assumed I was a lesbian: short, undyed gray hair; pants and comfortable shoes; no makeup or nail polish. In the fifties, which I was around for, traditional for women meant girdles, stockings, foot- and back-deforming high heels, and sessions under the dryer at the beauty parlor. In the sixties, when I went to college, no pants allowed unless there was snow on the ground. Do I have to go back to that?
Oh, and there were homosexuals then, too.
Personally, I think there is altogether too much blatant heterosexuality in the media, but sex sells, right? (I’m the one yelling at the TV for showing women police detectives at work wearing low-cut blouses. That makes me a prude.)
“Whose traditional norms and values?”
This is not a complete answer for you, but I did give specific examples what I meant in the linked entry, where I wrote:
In fact, Dean has offered the complete, correct, and simple answer to this issue which seems overwhelmingly complex but isn’t. Once society (circa 1960-1970) gave up traditional morality, once it said that homosexual acts were ok, once it began to allow sexual relations in college dormitories, there was no remaining place where a line could be drawn, and our society turned into a nihilistic, norm-free madhouse, with the only restrictions provided by the arbitrary, irrational, and ever shifting rules of PC.
If you think that what happened to Tyler Clementi is terrible and should not have happened, then, in my view, there is no solution to the problem inside our present ultra liberal system. The only solution lies outside that system. Namely, society needs to return to traditional morality, under which (a) sexual relations are only recognized and approved by society inside marriage, and non-marital relationships are not given any public recognition or status; (b) homosexual acts are considered wrong; and (c) sexual relations are not permitted in college dorms, males and females are housed in separate dorms, and the opposite sexes are not permitted to visit the other sex’s dorms except during certain prescribed hours.
You wrote in response to GA’s question about the legitimacy of any degree of taunting/bullying,
“I’d say it depends. If it’s serious bullying, threats, intimidation, then I agree, that can’t be allowed. But what if we’re talking about milder kinds of taunts, and this is built up into ‘bullying’?”
Well, I got bullied and taunted a lot as a boy. And back then, I would have agreed with GA. I wanted the adults, any adult, to come to my rescue and punish the other boys who were picking on me.
But what can a boy learn from being “rescued” by the authorities? Manly honor? Self-defense? The limits of non-conformity? Living well with others? I doubt it.
I was fat and unathletic. I didn’t have any friends and had no idea how to make any. That’s not how anyone is supposed to live, and in a cruel way, that’s exactly what my classmates were telling me when they mocked me. Being cruelly mocked was not good. But being fat and alone wasn’t either. It wasn’t until I decided that being mocked felt worse than eating junk food and watching cartoons felt good that I got off the couch and started riding my bike, walking and finally running. As lazy as I was, it wasn’t until the taunting became really unpleasant that I was motivated enough to get moving. By high school, I had moved to a new school, was athletic, well-liked and had my pick of ladies for Prom, junior and senior years. Not bad for the former fat kid.
Is that ideal? Is that how kids should be told to “man up”? No, probably not. I hated every minute of late elementary school and middle school. But what’s GA’s alternative? Zero Tolerance rules? Bully bans? Which results in what, exactly?
In the interest of banning ridicule, we’re willing to secure the safety of ridiculous behavior. I don’t know if the relationship is exactly causal, but I have wondered if the nation’s ever growing ranks of fat kids might benefit from a little ridicule now and then. Anyway, they sure don’t seem to be shedding any pounds under the current regime.
Now, I should add that I wasn’t in an inner-city school where my life was threatened. Bullying that results in loss of life cannot effect any good in the life it takes because that life has already ended.
Isn’t this interesting? The kids who were bullying Bartholomew operated, in effect, as the critical source of social order and discipline in his life. And just as this was true of Bartholomew and his fatness, couldn’t the same turn out to be true, at least in some cases, of boys who are encouraged by degenerate liberal society to act out their supposed “gayness,” and only the “bullying” of their peers shocks them out of it?
I’m glad that Bartholomew was able to make the best of his bullying and taunting to become physically fit and become popular once he had moved to a new school and escaped his stigma. (Maybe Michelle Obama’s fat-kids shaming will have beneficial effects, then, eh?) But one size doesn’t fit all.
I always hated gym, hated being forced to exert myself by someone barking at me. Yet I biked, roller-skated, jumped rope—exerted myself when I felt like it. As an adult, I recognized that I needed exercise without being taunted. I have taken decades of ballet and Pilates classes. Now my main criterion for a teacher is, will this person leave me alone? I have walked out of classes when the teacher acted like a bully. I know when I’ve had enough reps; I know what my goals are; I know when I’m hurting. Adult ed is so much better than school! No one can make me do anything! So what was motivating for Bartholomew would have shut me down.
Bartholomew, I don’t know what the answer is, except for responsible adults to make it clear that cruelty is cruel. Cruelty to children produces cruel adults. Can we at least agree that animal cruelty is wrong, or is that too “soft”?
And when I think of “manly” societies and institutions, I think of bullying and homoeroticism. English boarding schools come to mind, as do fraternity hazing and Pashtun warriors with their “man-boy–love Thursdays.” Manly men indeed!
SR, a female reader, writes:
Some further thoughts on Bonald’s article: The positive side of bullying In it he says:
Every society rests on a vast consensus about meanings and roles. We all agree on what various words mean, and that’s what allows us to communicate. We all agree on what constitutes polite behavior, and so we know how to avoid giving offence. Individualists always condemn conformity and consensus, but no decent human life could exist without it … Someone who publicly defies social expectations is a menace to the social order. If counterfeiters are too successful, money loses its value …
In normal times, this vast consensus of meanings and roles, may lie unsaid and undemonstrated but there is an atmosphere—an unspoken but palpable ring-pass-not that healthy societies draw in the invisible world. That cordon sanitaire keeps it relatively healthy and safe, keeping out what is harmful to society as a whole—even at the expense of a few individuals. It is our current unwillingness to judge—not even privately in our own heads—that is eroding that invisible cordon sanitaire. So I guess my first point is that as the invisible order erodes, we may have to become more and more active in expressing our disapproval in the visible world—and I hasten to add that will be very uncomfortable for most of us.
Bonald then goes on to say:
Why do straight kids pick on queers? Because public homosexuality threatens to rob them of the masculine and feminine roles that inform and dignify their lives.
This is something very true. Liberals mostly don’t ‘do’ religion because for the most part they lack ‘the God module’—that sense of something ‘more-than’ beyond the sense barrier. Many of them are perfectly happy with a hedonistic lifestyle or they have careers / talents that keep them focused on ‘me’ here and now. Or they don’t do God but they can do ‘Green’. Whatever.
For many ‘ordinary’ people, however, love of country, the dignity of family life and adherence to traditional gender roles is the form of transcendent meaning—and all of those things have been undermined by liberalism and its insistence on doing away with gender roles. That is to say that ‘ordinary’ people are unsupported in the invisible world—by the cultural elite’s insistence on demonstrating in every possible visible way the cornucopia of sexual possibility.
One last thing I want to say—For the past 20 years or so the idiots controlling our academic institutions have been subscribing to the theories of one Judith Butler. The crux of Butler’s ‘seminal’ work Gender Trouble is that gender is culturally constructed—a performance—something learned, performed not essential. You’ve heard it all before, blah blah blah. But it occurs to me when I think about the sorts of issues raised by Bonald, that perhaps gender does to some extent have to be a performance, has to be acted out in public, by men and women in their separate ways, for the good of society, and the maintenance of a healthy social life. Personally I would hate to have to cram my feet back into those spine-destroying high heels, or shove my middle aged self into a girdle, but I can begin to see the wisdom of such a performance.
And when I think of “manly” societies and institutions, I think of bullying and homoeroticism. English boarding schools come to mind, as do fraternity hazing and Pashtun warriors with their “man-boyâ€”love Thursdays.” Manly men indeed!
So when GA thinks of “manly” societies, she thinks of boy rapists and homosexuals. But when she thinks of boy rapists and homosexuals she wonders about their manliness (“Manly men indeed!”). So which is it? Are real men a menace to manhood or its reference point?
James P,. writes:
“But what can a boy learn from being “rescued” by the authorities? Manly honor? Self-defense? The limits of non-conformity? Living well with others? I doubt it.”
The victims—and also the bullies—learn that the authorities will preserve order, as they are obligated to do. Any failure to enforce authority erodes authority. Children are constantly watching you to see if you will enforce the limits you have prescribed, and quickly notice what behaviors are tacitly permitted. If you do not enforce your rule against bullying—if you overlook bullying even once for any reason—then you will get more bullying. Many parents are too lazy or spineless to make their kids behave, and that is exactly why a lot of children are unpleasant, ill-mannered, and lack self-discipline.
Roger G. writes:
Of course there is no positive side to bullying. I can’t believe what I’m reading.
Mocking a homosexual pride parade is an appropriate defensive response to perverts assaulting society with their pathology. This is not bullying, and I’m surprised at those who can’t tell the difference.
I thank Mr. Roebuck for bringing Bonald’s blog to our attention, and I find it impressive. But Bonald’s statement
.”..(S)traight kids pick on queers … (b)ecause public homosexuality threatens to rob them of the masculine and feminine roles that inform and dignify their lives…. “
is ridiculous. Straight kids pick on queers because it is an unfortunate human trait to persecute those who are different and weak. Think of all the other reasons besides homosexuality for which individuals are persecuted. The inclination to tyrannize must be suppressed by ethical instruction. This is all undoubtedly coming as quite a shock.
I’m glad that Bartholomew had the strength of character to benefit from his bullying. Surely we all know that’s almost never how it works. For instance, those criminal justice system “tough love” boot camps for delinquents have rarely been successful, and frequently provided disastrous, even fatal, results. That’s because you can’t put just anyone in a Smokey the Bear hat like a Marine drill instructor and have him start ranting. DIs are an elite with special abilities and psychological insight; only a select few Marines are considered qualified.
But as to the homosexuals, certainly there’s another solution besides glorification and persecution? Is it impractical to treat them with decency, while also requiring them to keep their homosexuality private, out of the public sphere? As an example, they can even bring the lover to an office party, but no kissing or dancing together? I’m not asking this rhetorically. We’re conservatives, so we don’t settle for pie in the sky solutions that don’t work.
In line with he comments of SR, I recommend Roger scruton’s essay Bring Back Stigma.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 16, 2010 12:35 PM | Send