After work last night, I walked past this demonstration just getting underway in Washington Square Park.
Stop the BS stands for “Stop the Bullying and Suicides.” The rally was provoked by a couple of high profile suicides of gay youngsters.
I stopped to talk with one of the demonstrators, because the issue does interest me (although, I want you to remember that I am completely inactive in all matters political, and I intend to stay that way).
“I wonder,” I asked the young black man, “are gays any more likely to be bullied than anybody else? I fought my way through an army of bullies on my way to school all through elementary school and junior high.”
”Well,” he replied, “everybody has to walk a mile in the other person's shoes. Gays are more likely on average to be the target of bullying and violence.”
I don't know if this it true. Could be. I want you to know, my gay friends (and I have them), that I abhor bullying and violence. I don't think any child should have to endure such abuse. One of my daughters is gay, and I hate to think that she would ever have to face that ugliness.
Here's the “but.” But, I'm extremely skeptical that governmental action, legal remedies or preaching by the educational system will produce significant change. Personal experience tells me that only self-defense will save a kid from bullying.
I think that there is a general perception that bullying and violence are always the result of the strong picking on the weak. Often, it is. Let me tell you what happened to me when I was a kid.
I was a star athlete in junior and senior high school in all three major sports, football, basketball and baseball. By the time I was 10 years old, I was routinely promoted to teams where the players were two, three and sometimes four years older than me.
The older boys were infuriated by my presence. They saw me as a competitor for girls and glory. They started to hunt me down in gangs of anywhere from three to six boys. They jumped me on the way to school and on the way home after practice, beat the hell out of me and left me face down in the dirt.
I dragged myself home after one of these incidents, and Dad knew just by looking at me what had happened. I cried and pleaded with him to do something about the situation.
“Well, I could go to the school or I could go to the cops,” Dad said. “And, they will probably do something. But, then, those kids are going to find you alone in a dark alley someday, and they're going to beat the hell out of you even worse.”
This seemed terribly unfair to me, and I told Dad so. This didn't move him a bit.
Dad taught me how to build up my body and how to fight. He told me that there were no rules in a fight, except to win. And, he told me that most fights are won by the guy who strikes first with the determination to end the fight in a single blow.
Since the older boys were ganging up on me, I figured all rules were off. I hunted down my tormentors one by one, blindsided them and beat the bloody hell out of them before they had a chance to even respond. I left them lying face down in the mud and I rubbed their faces in the filth and taunted them. I'm not proud of this. I'm just telling you the truth about what happened.
After I'd finished up with them, I encountered the gang again one night after practice. They were geared up for another stomping.
”Go ahead assholes,” I told them. “But you'd better finish the job, because I'll hunt you down one by one again, and this time I'll kill you.”
They decided to leave me alone.
So, you see, my experience tells me that self-defense is the only answer. It's not a good answer, but life often doesn't present us with ideal answers to human difficulties.
Here's the problem with trying to solve the dilemma of bullying with legislation or education. First, kids are barbarians. And, since adolescence now lasts up to about 30, that means that college kids are barbarians. Second, preaching to kids makes you the pompous, stuff shirt authority figure that they are rebelling against.
Kids are savages. That should go without saying. They live in a world that is wild and lawless. Legal punishments, for the most part, don't even seem real to them. If you're a rock and roll musician, you know this, because part of the mystique of the music is that wild and lawless world of youth. What good does it do to preach tolerance to savages? You might as well piss into the wind.
I love South Park. The parents in that series are all veterans of the 60s, and they think that rebellion ended with them. They think that all of the issues of authority versus kids were solved when they were adolescents. So, they are constantly astonished to discover that their kids think they are pompous windbags preaching bullshit. Their kids are rebelling against them.
So, the adults preach endlessly about tolerance, and the South Park kids sit there bored and wondering when in the hell the adults are going to stop gassing at them. And, what do the kids do as soon as the adults aren't around? They mock the adults by doing precisely what the adults told them not to do. Sound familiar? We did the same thing when we were kids. It's called rebellion, and it didn't end with the 60s.
So, while I agree wholeheartedly with the goal of ending bullying, I am incredibly skeptical that there is anything to do about it other than to teach kids self-defense. It looks to me that bullying is just part of the human condition, and that it isn't about to go away. So, I'd suggest that you learn to defend yourself.
If you are offended by this because it seems in opposition to your politics, I'm sorry. I really don't care about politics.