I was thinking over the nature of bullying today at work, and I considered what this had to do with the notion of “authority”. This trail of thought was probably brought on by one of those television police shows that seem to litter our screens at the moment. Another form of the dreaded “reality” TV craze.
Another thing that has probably made my mind go down this route is Dave’s post about (what I tend to refer to as) “backdoor fascism” over on Devious Dictum. I won’t summarise his post here, just nip over and read it… Go on, I can wait a sec’.
Okay, you back now? Good…
At work we have a near constant barrage of emails regarding things like “tolerance”, “bullying” and “mental health in the workplace”. I think it’s the only place I’ve ever worked where the people with mental health problems outnumber those considered “healthy”.
Bullying is an interesting and worrying step in the same process that Dave was talking about. Authority really relies on bullies, the police are there to bully us into submission, and the army are there if the police can’t handle the job. I know that sounds simplistic and perhaps rather paranoid and perhaps it is (and I must stress this is meant as neither and attack on the police or the army, but their use by our government); but a great deal of the rules we live by are not there to protect US but to protect those with authority and power to maintain what they have and little else.
I suppose the point is that on one hand we are shown on television shows and advertisements that the nature of bullying is bad, but far too many people (just like the so-called “anti-fascist” protestors in Dave’s post) don’t consider whether they themselves could be classed as such a thing.
So what is a bully? That seems like a good place to start. Off the top of my head I’d say that a bully is a person who uses threats of physical or mental abuse, or sustained and underhand subterfuge to gain control over another person or group of persons.
What does “bully” mean to you? I imagine it’s not too different from what I’ve written above. If I’m wrong please comment below and tell me your interpretation for the term.
Over the years I’ve read many things about bullying in schools and people sometimes take me for just being callous when I say something along the lines of “good, we need more of that.” This isn’t because I’m just a nasty person who likes to see kids suffer (understandable if you did think that of me though, my dislike of kids is quite well documented), it’s actually because bullying is a part of all our lives.
We are bullied by our government, we are bullied by the police, and we are also bullied by our employers and the tax man too. Basically a part of life is people in “authority” demanding things from those who cannot say no; practically a definition of “bullying”.
It seems to me that what’s failing the young isn’t that they are being bullied, but that we are not giving them the tools to deal with bullies effectively. If we tell them to “go to teacher” then they will never learn how to process being bullied, and never find their coping mechanisms that will serve them later in life.
The “go to teacher” philosophy creates a false impression of autonomy in the young. It implies that they have the right not to be pushed around by others, and though this may be true it still does not change the fact that they will be pushed around for the rest of their lives by someone stronger than they are.
There’s another TV show that always brings this type of thought to mind is BBC’s “Dragon’s Den” and their constant use of the word “entrepreneur”. Essentially this word could almost be a synonym for “greedy authoritarian” where someone with power and influence uses that power and influence to amass more of the same. The dragons are really just bullies by a different name, as are most “businessmen” and I admit I have to laugh a bitter laugh whenever I hear someone use the term “business ethics”; as the term is an oxymoron.
“Dragon’s Den” is another example of this “bullying is good” ideology hiding beneath a thin veneer of “self improvement” but it is not the only one by far. Our TV screens are filled with shows were people with money who use it to openly exploit those who do not, shows which follow people as they buy and rent properties are an obvious example. The “buy to let” craze is a perfect example of “financial bullying” where those with ready cash use it to exploit those who have no options or alternatives. This in itself is bad enough but it also could be argued that the “buy to let” process also helps in creating the economical climate that puts the exploitee’s in the poor financial position they are in the first place.
This is not meant as a criticism of people who do exploit others in this manner (though they should really see that this is what’s happening and should not hide behind terms like “entrepreneur”), but an illustration of what children have to look forward to and the hypocrisy inherent in modern society. There is a point when “earning” a living become something more, when someone’s pursuit of money leads to more pursuit of money and more is never enough. There’s a difference between making a good living and just wanting it all, without the thought of where it comes from and who will suffer in the pursuit of it; because someone will always suffer.
If as adults we want to protect and teach our youth then its absolutely essential that society is willing to accept that authority is based on bullying the populace into submission and that “success” is often (perhaps always?) a sign that someone has excelled at the art of exploitation.
We live in a world where the recourses on it are controlled by a tiny percent of its population and where it’s so common to find injustice caused by this that we no longer even see it. This is compounded by our use of words such as “entrepreneur” and our unspoken notion that “greed is good” (and people are greedy for more than just money) which means we don’t question those who propagate this injustice. In fact the idea is enforced from youth that the only way not to be a victim of it is to either be the bully or to side with a bigger bully.
After all lets not forget that if all authority is based on bullying then this also suggests the school teacher we encourage our children to go to are also part of the same system.