The Bully In Me And The Bully In You

There are no doubt quite a few people who celebrate the comments made by our previous vice president that if he had grown up in school with our nation’s current president that he would have beat him up.  Quite a few other people no doubt wish they could have slapped him upside the head when he was in office himself for some of his own gaffes, but let us judge not lest we shall be judged.  So long as there is the tendency for us to view our differences with other people and the way that others offend us and rub us the wrong way as being justification for violent hostility to others, we will be in danger of becoming bullies ourselves, even if our ostensible goal is to counteract the bullying we see as being directed from others.  All too often, sadly, we are not offended by bullying and abuse per se but merely abuse and bullying directed at ourselves or those whom we view as our allies and supporters.  We are all too quick to become bullies ourselves when we are in power even as we bemoan what we suffer when we are out of power, which rather undercuts our desire to be morally superior to those whom we hold in contempt.

We live in a day and age where we are ostensibly against bullying as a whole [1].  Yet it does not take much investigation to see that this is plainly not the case.  Yet as is the case with many of the social evils we face in life, bullying is not always called by name or recognized for what it truly is.  When we seek to delegitimize others or the statements made against us by others, we are engaged in bullying behavior, even if this involves seeking to redefine what is “fake news” so that it only includes sources that we find acceptable based on our own worldview, as is the case with some, and even more so if we seek to criminalize speech which points out the immoral aspects of our behavior.  Likewise, we may be bullies in defense of what is right and good if we fail to distinguish between the heinous evil that exists in our world and the people who commit those evils.  After all, we may not appreciate it if others turn our harsh standard of denunciation and invective against us if they fail to distinguish between our own morality and the way we go about presenting and defending it.  And so it goes.  We may be bullies on behalf of those groups we see as being unfairly labeled and marginalized, but we may find that the groups we defend strongly and the groups others defend strongly are at cross-purposes with each other, so that we may see our behavior as legitimate and what others do as bullying and vice versa, without any likely prospect of coming to terms with those whom we find on the opposite side of the various lines that divide our contemporary culture into so many hostile groups.

After all, “bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others,” if we take Wikipedia’s reasonable definition of the term as the starting point of our discussion.  It matters little what interests we defend when doing so, or the element of the force or coercion that we use, or the arena in which we intimidate someone.  If we threaten to sue someone for hate speech because of what they say, that is coercion.  If we rewrite laws and get court decisions that seek to coerce others from saying what they wish and behaving as they wish and to live according to our standards, that too is bullying.  Since few of us appear to desire all speech and behavior to be acceptable and we all see there being some legitimacy in coercing and dominating others according to some standard of behavior that we wish to see enforced, we are all bullies to some extent.  The desire to dominate and intimidate those who are hostile or threatening to us makes all of us subject to being bullies if we have the power to enforce these desires in an institution or society.  We may not like thinking of ourselves as bullies, but we can be pretty sure that other people will think of us as bullies if we are particularly fierce in defending our views and particularly harsh towards others, whatever reason or justification we have for doing so.

Seeing, then, that we can all either be or support bullying in the right circumstances, regardless of our age or worldview, we may see that the efforts we make to stop bullying are likely to fail because the problem is far bigger and far deeper than we are willing to wrestle with.  So long as we see what we view as evil in this world, we will look to the state, or to ourselves, or to others as possessing legitimate in coercing others to force them to toe the line and at least prevent the public expression of evil.  Likewise, those who are subject to our coercion will have a just claim to view us as bullying and tyrants if they are right and we are wrong.  Who decides what right and wrong are?  The only way out of the impasse is for there to be a consistent and eternal standard outside of ourselves by which our behavior and the behavior of others may be judged.  Failing this, bullying simply becomes a label to speak out against speech or behavior that wishes to coerce and dominate us, and lacks any immoral tendency aside from our own opinions and positions.  Where is this standard of right and wrong to be found, and once found, who is going to enforce this standard, so that we may properly recognize the difference between a just use of the power of institutions and authorities to punish evil and coerce evildoers and an improper use of coercion against that which is noble and good?  Clearly we cannot find such a standard in our contemporary practices, but must seek it in another place.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to The Bully In Me And The Bully In You

  1. Pingback: A Dialogue Not Recorded By Plato | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Who Is Responsible For Bullying Anyway? | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Bullies You Will Have With You Always | Edge Induced Cohesion

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