Yesterday’s topic which was supposed to be about men fighting (why men fight – eh) got sidetracked into schoolyards, bullies, fights, blatant abuse, wife beating as related to fist fights and the advisability of authorities intervening in all this. Which was bad. Very bad. Because it got me thinking. And that’s bad. Very bad.
It’s very bad because I never come to the expected conclusion which I suppose is that I was wrong, violence is bad, etc., etc.
I wasn’t wrong, violence isn’t – by itself – bad but – more importantly – you can’t eradicate it from a human society, and we’re going about the problem of keeping the savage part of man controlled upside down and sideways, when we KNOW the solution. What we’re doing deliberately ignores hundreds of years of experience and we’re going to pay for this. We’re going to pay for this in awful ways. In fact, we’re going to pay for this in a lot of violence that will be targeted mostly at the defenseless.
We’ll start with me as a mother. No adult fully understands the world of children, the sudden violence and the vile ways they go after each other. In a way this is because we have a softened recollection of our own childhood. Part – son would say – is because our brains aren’t fully developed as children, and as things change, things get stored elsewhere and lost. Think of it as moving and shoving some stuff into the garage which you only open 13 years later and go “oh, wow, I didn’t remember that.” Only in this case you don’t open it ever again. (Son, who can be incredibly literal wants to point out I have the process wrong. It’s more like living in the garage and then moving out, because memory doesn’t get moved out and into another place. You just grow out of it, and stop using it. — He insists it’s vitally important I correct this. So, now you’re enlightened. Right?)
So we’ll start with my being in my early thirties and taking older son to kindergarten, and waiting outside the row of kids, then watching the teacher come to gather them in.
These were good kids, in a little mountain town. Since the mountain town is a dormitory for the larger city, most people there were white collar workers, a few artist and other creatives. There was exactly one blue collar worker, a dad who was a carpenter. (He was my buddy while standing outside with the kids, waiting for the teacher.)
And yet an observant adult could see the tides of violence beneath the surface. My kid was often a target because we’d taught him NEVER to hit anyone, because he was so outsized. (We later had to modify that. More on that later.)
When the teacher came to get the kids, not only was I relieved that I didn’t have to arbitrate those disputes, as I was totally baffled as to why an adult, any adult would want to spend their time with the kids.
They were, to put things mildly, little savages, without a glimmer of mercy, order, compassion or justice, or any of the higher values. They lied, hit, bullied and formed gangs to prey on the weak as easily as they breathed.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think the teacher was aware of all the currents (I know I wasn’t.) And I don’t think she was often able to do justice. I think most often, like a policeman, she made peace – by the method of getting them to shut up and go away – but not justice. And I know, from being in charge of kids, that it’s very easy to give in to the sweet and angelic looking one who brings you tales of the awful stuff those rough boys are doing. More on that later too.
I know many of you had experiences of awful PHYSICAL bullying in school. Note I said “physical” and note I said “many of you.” No, I was never physically bullied. I was attacked and there was what I THINK was an attempted rape, but that was middle school and I dealt with it.
I wasn’t attacked, not because I’m some sort of uber mensch but due to accident of genetics. At 5’7” by 12 and weighing in at just over 100 lbs, I was a moose. Even fighting with boys wasn’t a problem until I was about 14 and they got the testosterone boost. By 12 I was taller than most of my teachers, including males.
Given that and – yeah, I know myself – a tendency to crack heads first and ask questions later, in fact, given a preference for the fast, clean solution of a blow to the offender’s noggin I must have been a bully right?
Throughout most of my childhood, I was the center of a group of small and mousy friends. When I was fourteen the bete noir of my childhood, the man who liked arguing politics with me to prove his superiority, and who was at that point losing interest in me because I was too old for him, (and yes, that means exactly what you think it means) and who had always thought of me as a more sexual being than I thought of myself, accused me of picking as friends the skinny, the fat, the ugly, and those who would make me look good.
This startled me, because a) I didn’t think of myself as any different from my friends (and more on that later too.) and b) I was inside my head a boy. Physical beauty didn’t come into it. I knew by then I liked boys, but I had this hazy idea the boy I wanted would overlook the externals. (A surprising number of guys I dated did, considering most of them are now happy with guys. Eh.)
Throughout elementary school and into early high school, my friends were my friends because I stopped people hitting them.
Look, I knew myself – still do – and I knew I liked violence and hitting. (Physical. I’m not a verbal happy warrior.) That has receded somewhat as I got older, though sometimes I wonder if it’s just I learned to control it and sublimate it into stories.
My dad, bless him, knew that too. Probably because he recognized similar savage tendencies in himself. So he taught me a code. It wasn’t a new code.
The people I could hit were those doing harm to others. Tattle tales, particularly those either bearing false witness or distorting things were free to hit too. I was never though, under penalty of being pushed off the human race for shoving in line, to hit anyone smaller, weaker, or more defenseless than myself. Ever.
So by default I became a champion of the weak and the bullied. Until high school. When I found that my strength and size didn’t save me from one kind of bullying. What was more it was a kind of bullying I’d saved my friends from in the past, but it could still get to me.
Those of you who are women know exactly what I’m talking about. That kind of bullying was the whisper campaign, the snide remark, the glance that said “who, her?”
Look, I entered high school in seventh grade, but here I’m talking about high school as in the US – 9th to 12th grade. I entered it functionally a boy. Not physically. I had breasts from the age of eleven, which proves G-d has a sense of humor because what in heck did a tomboy want those for? But in my head I was a boy. Externally to an extent, too. I lived in my brother’s discarded sweaters and cut down shorts and pants. I had leather elbow patches. My mom had to sew holes caused by my fighting.
I left it in 12th grade, after a stint in the US, where my host mother finally got me to see the benefits of lipstick and hairdos, as a proper young lady. Okay, a weird young lady. Like my older son I dressed entire in thirties style, complete with fishnet or lace stockings, (Robert, fortunately skips those and goes with the male version, including Fedora and trenchcoat.) but hey. By that time I’d also learned to ignore idiots saying stupid things about me. But it had been a hard climb.
Which means in 9th grade I was totally unprepared for the “feminine way of fighting and enforcing group cohesion.” I was unprepared for the whisper campaign, the put downs, the giggles when I did something the group had arbitrarily decided was wrong.
Most of you were physically bullied. Let me tell you something: if that’s all you were, you’re lucky.
I won’t tell it, because it’s not my story, but one of the people who regularly guests here had her life nearly ruined by concerted, sickly sweet, concern trolling BULLYING. I’ll let her tell it if she wants to.
One of my regrets is not having gone to her school, because I’d have descended like vengeance from above and shoved the bullies’ heads in till they stopped it. Which they did.
I couldn’t do it when it was directed at me, but I came to the states as an exchange student and left them behind, and that’s a long story we don’t need to go into.
What we need to go into is violence and the way humans hurt each other, both in school and in the larger society.
It’s relatively easy for the “authorities from above” be they playground guards and the civil authorities alike, to “suppress violence.” Unfortunately that leaves the bullying of a different kind in place. It also takes off the table the solution that was used throughout the centuries to keep the violent nature of mankind under control.
Humans are violent and nasty. Every human. Given a chance the little mouse of a girl will kick the bully, or at least fantasize about it. I think most of those feminists fantasizing about hurting men that Cedar quoted a while back, were in fact bullied/hurt little girls who know they can’t fight physically. But they can fantasize.
Faced with a classroom full of violent kids, or a world full of violent adults (none of us are angels) it’s very easy to say “I’ll just stop all fighting. I’ll beat anyone who fights.)
Here’s a problem – you too are a fallible human and filled with violent impulses. (And before one of you asks – did I as a kid dispense the wrong justice? Probably not often. It was a small school and I was aware of the personalities and proclivities. Sometimes, though? Probably.) You’re going to listen to the side that seems right to you. The angelic looking and cleaner side does it for most adults. And half the time it will be the wrong side. Plus, you can’t be everywhere. One of the worst beatings I EVER got as a child, was when I cut between two houses on my way to buy mom some butter at the dairy. I was trying to save a few blocks of walking. I was jumped on by a group of the guys I’d often beat at the school (because they were repeat-violent-bullies and at this point all have criminal records.) You can’t fight a group. While patching me up mom asked “Why did you go out of the main street, where people would have intervened on a fight of many boys against one girl?”
And that’s the second part. You can’t watch everyone and everywhere. You can do two things:
You can teach kids to watch themselves, which makes them adults who watch themselves. You can’t tell them “never, ever, ever, ever fight/have a violent thought.” They’re still humans. But you can tell them the acceptable… ah… boundaries to their savagery. “Fight on the side of good. Protect those weaker and more innocent than yourself.”
And you can communicate that to the greater community. You can teach people what’s “fair fight” and what’s not. If they learned it as kids, they will enforce it when blatantly violated as adults.
In the same situation “never fight, ever, ever, ever, ever” is just going to disarm those who would otherwise jump to the rescue. (And the victim, should she ever wish to fight back.) The untamed savage? They don’t care. They’ll continue committing acts of lawlessness.
Faced with a similar problem, rulers of the middle ages, who needed their vassals in good shape to fight off invasions and aggressors in the time of chaos after Rome, invented chivalry, which is basically “you fight to defend the weak and poor and helpless.”
Did it work? Eh. In default, often, like my happy go lucky violence in elementary school.
Were these men still horribly violent to underlings and women? Surely – it was the time it was – but often FAR less violent than they would otherwise have been.
It could be argued not only isn’t there a link between wife-beating and inter-male personal violence but that there is a reverse link. I’m not sure about this. Don’t know if a study has ever been done – or a non-doctored study – and I know anecdote isn’t data. BUT I know that in the village the worst wife-beaters were the lame, the halting, the ones under suspicion of being less than manly, the ones in fact who couldn’t hold up their own as men among men. Take it for the price I’m selling it, which isn’t very much, just “this is what I’ve seen.”
In this as in everything else, it’s impossible for the authorities to be everywhere at once. It always was. It always will be.
It’s better to teach each person to channel his or her violence.
But why not teach them to suppress it then?
Because you can’t. What you’re asking is “why not make men angels, then?”
Look, we’ve cut down on personal assaults dramatically, but we’ve done it at the expense of the wave of non-physical assaults.
I think middle school was always h*ll on Earth, but I didn’t know how bad it could be until eighteen girls bullied my son by using the school authorities as weapons.
If the rule is “don’t fight” and “if I feel uncomfortable, I’ll go to the authorities” clever bullies are always capable of running to the authorities with stories, real, invented or exaggerated. In the case of my son they were wholly invented, and to boot these girls were perpetrating violence on him out of sight of the authorities. (Which I only know because I accidentally observed it.) BUT the authorities believed it was possible to completely suppress violence, and that the physical side of it was the only violence, and that a big, strong male must be at fault, always.
We’ve seen what the “don’t fight” and “use the authorities as whips instead” has done in our society at all levels. The male is always guilty and always suspect, but women can make up things out of whole cloth and no one questions it, because “they’re not violent.”
This puts power in the hands of women and men of a certain stripe: the weasels, the tale bearers, the plausible liars, the yellow streaks of sh*t, who would never face another man (or woman) in the full light of day, but who will lie and connive their way to the top.
This way, anti-bullying initiatives become bullying. Someone was discussing on FB how the Goodreads “anti-bullying” groups come down like a ton of bricks on any author trying to defend his book, or anyone else trying to protect himself from group evisceration.
Same as it’s ever been. Take away physical weapons, and people will use the authorities as physical weapons. (And psychological ones too, which is worse.)
Now, the weasels we shall always have with us (I think that’s in the Bible, somewhere.) And the wicked flourish like the green bay tree.
But when you take from society the manly weapons of open and clean, minor and non-lethal violence, what you’re left with are the female weapons: the denunciation, the stab in the back, the laughter, the snark, the reputation-destroying rumor. And the advantage is not just to women (the wrong kind of women) but also to entirely the wrong kind of man. Some men are very good at it indeed.
And what results is what we’re seeing in certain professional organizations: bullying of the ones perceived as weak. Hounding of those who don’t think with the group. Abuse of elders. In fact, the full panoply of the crab bucket.
This is because people have been taught violence that’s not physical is okay, and because they’re human and violence, group fighting and group protecting has to go somewhere.
And the advocates of non-violence can wipe their hands to the wall. I hope to heaven I’m wrong, but I predict that in less than a decade, those will be very bloody fingerprints.
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers and thank you to Glenn Reynolds for the link.