The use of the term “bullying” has increased in the USA by over 3-fold since 1990 (Google nGram to 2008 the last year listed). No doubt this is due to a real uncovering of previously concealed activity.
But, come on, folks!
Bullying has now become degraded to mean just about anything.
Like Nazi, fascist, racist, misogynist, conservative, alt-anything, fake-whatever, and ‘low-down-mean,’ the word has become to mean merely: “I don’t like you.”
The last ten years, a time hallmarked in America by the triumph of political correctness, safe-places, adult coloring books, micro-aggressions, shrieking professors calling for death in the name of life, and blocking political speech in the name of the freedom of political speech, have seen people embrace “bullying” as an iron-clad way of castigating those of whom it disapproves.
It used to have a meaning: “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” https://www.stopbullying.gov
That definition specified two things: 1) youth and/or powerlessness, 2) abuse of power.
How has the term been morphed?
Bullying used to be abuse of the weak (physically) by the strong (physically) specifically in an educational situation. The strong were usually the stupid, socially inept, and frustrated. The weak were anyone who could be made a victim.
Now, it may mean mere words: people being physically assaulted by others because their words were labelled “verbal assaults.” No, no hypocrisy there! Heaven forbid. Even, virtual words, arrangements of electrons, as evanescent as the wind, are blamed for a child committing suicide, salving, no doubt, the realization of failure by a parent and society which has shoveled isolation, alienation, and lack of consolation upon the child; distant sentiments of mere acquaintances becoming more real to the victim than immediate love and acceptance.
It does not hold together. Our new concept of bullying is incorrect.
We have all been littler, weaker, smaller, slower, more alone, and less aware of consequences than some other. All of us, even bullies, have been potential, if not actual, victims.
It is how we respond to that threat, real or imagined, which is a central part of our path from childhood to adulthood.
We may, seeing the immediate success of our own humiliation, embrace bullying when we can do so to our own benefit. It is reported that 90% of schoolyard bullies have been victims themselves. (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2008/aug/29/bullying.schools)
We may, seeing the injustice of it, step-in to prevent it. (I have a few stories about that, some remembered bruises and a broken tooth, but that at another time.)
We may, seeing that weakness and righteousness inevitably coincide at times, attempt to change the dynamic: might does not always make right. We call that attempt “government.” It has been a dubious experiment.
We may, in our selfishness, merely build up our defenses, stand behind the bulwarks of strength, age, prestige, education, and success, to throw bon mots at the little schoolyard tyrants of our youth and remembered powerlessness. This, I think, the most popular. The schoolyard bully is a favorite object for disdain in literature. In my own experience, I have to admit, I have found it so. The sixteen-year-old boy, cursed with early puberty, a dull wit, and intemperance, who attacked me on the last day of 9th grade (his last day of academic endeavor, as it turned out) after sucker-punching me from behind was himself seized from behind and dragged off, summarily. Very Satisfactory. I have forgotten his name, which is a pity.
So we have, all of us, been the victim or potential victim of bullying. We have all had the chance to bully; some of us, some of the time, have embraced that.
Let’s explore the other aspect of bullying: the abuse of power. This is more difficult. Particularly difficult because in life, we are not equal.
Please don’t. It is tiresome.
But, the truth is just that. We are not equal.
Some of us are employees. Some of us are bosses. Some are wiser. Some are defective in body, spirit, soul or intellect. Some have been elevated to levels of authority.
Get over it.
The fool who rants that their tenth-grade teacher doesn’t like him may have a point, but he has no standing. He can learn or not learn from the teacher and the experience. Ranting will improve neither his education nor the teacher’s affection for him. The boss that alienates the underling will get what he wants: grudging compliance and no more. The great dictator, whether bombastic and amorphous, or short, fat, xenophobic, and a super-annuated adolescent, will both fail in the long run with a greater or lesser body count.
Lastly, what are we to do with the disembodied use of the term for, bullying for situations where neither of the two conditions exist. If anyone is neither a weak victim, and is, in fact, possessed of all the weapons of the other, and is not at the mercy of the other’s authority, can bullying occur? When it is all reduced to words, facts, and ideas, can anything be said to be bullying?
Words, facts, and ideas are not equal. Words have meanings, qualities, and can be related to each other by sentiments and logic.
A family member, currently suffering from Post-Trump-Progressive-Psychosis (PTPP) made a statement: “Conservatives are selfish.” Turns out that is kind of a lie. Self-identified (doncha love that non-useful term?) liberals GIVE THEIR OWN MONEY AWAY far, far, LESS than those terribly selfish conservatives (based on IRS data, which with Lois Lerner still on the loose should tell you something). And the CONSERVATIVES give away money voluntarily. Just to put it into perspective, the great philanthropist, ex-VPUSA Joseph Biden (D-DE) and his wife (a childhood schoolmate, as it happens) donated to charity $627, for the BOTH of them for TWO years total (2008), working out to less than $15/month (or two venti lattes on the Starbuck Coffee Standard).
In contrast, progressives are touted as generous for using the absolute, and potentially brutal, power of the state to coerce payment from OTHER PEOPLE to fund their charity.
When did blackmail become synonymous with charity?
Socialism, as my fam-mem finally admitted to embracing, was preferable to capitalism, also because “capitalists are selfish.” I asked her who was more selfish: Man A, who risked his own money with no possible chance of recovery, hired people, and paid those people his money, on the chance, that he would make a profit OR the Man B, who demanded that Man A pay (on threat of imprisonment or worse) Man B to make him appear to give the unemployed what they had never earned and thus allow Man B to remain in power? If A has his way, his workers will make money; he might make money. If B has his way, A will lose money and his workers may become unemployed. Non-workers make no money beyond that stripped from the bones of A’s business. B is confirmed in his folly and to his political subpremacy.
As Margaret Thatcher observed, “Socialism works wonderfully until you run out of other people’s money.”
My fam-mem would not answer with anything other than insults and shortly accused me of bullying her.
By most standards, the woman in her eighth decade, is, intelligent, accomplished, and self-sufficient. While she is older, and for many years was larger, faster, more clever, and rather more diabolical than I, she has never been, and certainly is not now, in my power (where is a D-minor organ chord when you need one?) In her advanced years, she has taken to waving the red flag of socialism and shouting obscenities at public meetings and on Facebook.
I have not seen her in a number of years so any putative bullying on my part, had I wanted to attempt it, must have been accomplished trans-continentally, using mere words, ideas, and logic, one must presume.
Words and ideas are not equal.
Some words, ideas are indeed stupider than others.
Some logic is flawed.
Some ardently held opinions are wrong morally, politically, and rationally.
Those ideas should be ridiculed and those who hold them should be righteously embarrassed for having done so.
No bullying necessary.
[A word of disclaimer: Currently, I am a private contractor, sole proprietor of my own services, and an author. Prior to that, I was an employee. Other than some teenagers I have hired to do yard-work; I have never been an employer. I have been under authority and have had people under authority to me. I, like Will Rogers, belong to no organized political party.
In 2016, for the first time in almost fifty years, I could not hold my nose hard enough to vote for either the Crook, or the Creep. Just so’s you know]