Bullies and The Bullied: A New View

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By: J. Marlando


The theories of what makes a bully are fairly widely spun but, to date, no one can say why especially some children choose to bully over other children. And, the other question is why do some children permit themselves to be bullied. Indeed, we read every now and then that some bullied child actually commits suicide as a response to being pushed around by others...or, a bullied child goes wacko and becomes a schoolhouse murderer. Both extremes can be responses to being "pushed" too far, put down too often, made too much fun of...So there are deadly responses to being bullied; responses that cannot be reversed.

When I was a kid in school I had a couple of bullies test my metal. The first was Lupe, South Junior's tough kid. He used to chase me to school everyday. Then one day I decided to stop and I tossed him to the ground. We became friends that day. Then, once in Wyoming, a bunch of us boys were outside playing when this bully joined us and began showing off by pushing everyone around. He pushed me hard enough to knock me to the ground. I stood and gave him a shove that knocked him down. After that, he slithered away being defeated by a dose of his own medicine.

Yes, I am well aware that some children (as well as some adults) do not have the will to stand up for themselves, are too afraid to or simply don't know how. As for me, I was raised by an Irish mother who taught me never to back down to anyone. And trust me, if she ever found out that I did, she would have been far more "scary" to face than any school ground tough guy. bullyCredit: www.tampabayvictimsightsblogspot.comBut are bullies really tough or is their bullying typically more bark than bite?

First of all, it is not bravery to be mean to anyone much less someone that is weaker than ourselves. This is why most of us are so appalled by men who are wife-beaters. Since most women are physically weaker than most men so men who hit them are most commonly weak and fragile on the inside. In a term, cry babies wanting their own way. This "wanting one's own way" is pretty common to all bullies. Life is my sand pile and we're going to play what I want to play.

An interesting observation is given us by Dr. Dorothy Espelage, associate professor of educational psychology at University of Chicago. She tells us that while it was once thought that bullies came from deprived family life and lacked self-esteem and that they picked on other kids to feel good about themselves. It has been found that in most cases the opposite is true: bullies are kids who are popular and are already admired by their teachers and peers; that such kids are ordinarily resentful to parental and teacher authority and like to be in control. I do not agree with this one hundred percent: Many kids growing up in poverty also become bullies to transcend their "poor" self-images. The bullies I encountered as a school boy were, in fact, all dirt poor but in any case, what is a street gang but a group of bullies? Nevertheless, a great many bullies do come from the higher middle-class and more wealthy home environments.  As said before, the common bully simply wants his or her own way and wants to show his or her own authority. In fact, the professionals say that most bullies feel absolutely justified for their bullying.

The topics of bullying of course are manifold and impossible to pigeonhole any one cause. Bullying, for example, can (and does) evolve out of having (or desiring) too much power over others. Prison guards and policemenBullyCredit: www.collegehumor.com are very vulnerable to becoming bullies. That is, those they have absolute control over others, typically become tyrannical. In this same light,  the world's most cruel bullying occurred in Nazi concentration camps where Nazis and their advocates,, such as the Ukrainians, had the power of life and death over their prisoners.

With all this in mind, my intentions for this article is to make observations of bullies and the bullied not only in our classrooms but in our society, in an attempt to suggest ways of reevaluating the cause and effects of both.

Aspects of The Bullying Society

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Unfortunately civilization is structured where there are a few masters and a massive amount of the marginalized. We have this in the U.S. but this is even more blatant for people living under actual dictatorships. History reveals that demagogues of all societies has imprisoned, sometimes tortured and murdered their disobedient or outlawed subjects. Certainly the church did this during the Inquisition (in the name of "God's desires" of course) and some of today's Islam societies are still stoning, especially women, who don't abide by their religious-socio mores. Jolly old England has a heartless past of such heinous crimes against humanity that most of us aren't able to even imagine. The list of man's inhumanity to man spans from the dawning of civilization and continues forwards into our so-called sophisticated modernism. There is a fantastic book I recommend everyone interested to read: Philip Zimbardo's, The Lucifer Effect. In essence it is a fascinating study of how all of us, with a mighty few exceptions, have it in us to...well...become bullies.

One point of the above is that we are all raised in crime and punishment environments. This starts out with being taught by our parents to conform and follow the rules or, if we don't, pay a penalty. After 10,000 to 15,000 years of building societies we still remain in the Dark Ages when it come to our punitive systems. Indeed, in the U.S., our prisons have become our poor houses and insane asylums and felons are still branded...for life.

(Any country that claims to make freedom their cornerstone cannot at the same time have consensual laws...we do! Laws ought only be concerned with keeping us safe and assuring our unalienable right to pursue happiness. Instead the law becomes dictatorial; a bully, at least in most instances putting its authority above all else. As a result, the good citizen simply abides and, if you will, follows the yellow line. Do not take me wrong, I agree that every culture must have laws but, at the same time, it is justice that should be supreme in society and not subordination. I'll repeat that: It's justice that should be supreme in a society and not subordination).   

We do not want to stray too far from the subject of the individual bully and bullied but I believe it is important to grasp that most of our personalities are formed by exterior influences. And so, if some kids feel constantly pushed around, they will invariably begin pushing back often becoming a bully themselves or withdraw and surrender themselves to the bullying. In regard to these responses, I have said for years that the biggest mistake that parents make is teaching their children to mind as opposed to encouraging them to think.

Before leaving these topics I  will make a final point: Some years ago, I interviewed the world's most renowned cancer surgeon who is also a writer/lecturer. Bernie Siegel! We were talking about young people's suicides as I recall and I asked him what he would say to those young people if he could. His answer has never left me. He said, it is not God who judges you, it is your parents, your teachers and your preachers who judge you and have taken away what is yours. What more do any of us need to contemplate than this?

Random Observations of Bullies

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As seen in the above, bullying unfolds on all types of levels and for all sorts of reasons, the loaner who likes to make the borrower squirm, the boss who makes his employees crawl, the religion that makes guilt and shame it's power over the people and the bureaucrat that turns folks into numbers and treats them accordingly. The list goes on but the reader has the point. The adult reader, after all, without any doubt whatsoever, has experienced  at least some of this kind of bullying along his or her way.

By and large, smaller children are not going to feel condemned by the bullies in their lives except perhaps by their teachers and the rules that Mom gives them. In regard to this, , I have a friend of mine who is truly a smart man, a man of invention and art; a capable man who has never accomplished a thing in his lifetime because he was raised to believe that failure isn't an option. Unable to live up to his father, he became punctilious. That is, so very careful about having correct social behavior and perfect etiquette that he has lived his life hidden behind a persona of perfection and pretend-success.bullyCredit: www.samadeni.woodpress.com In this particular case, the bully was the father who simply expected his sons to excel. As a result,  this particular man I'm speaking of became a very special kind of Bully, the kind that uses a greater knowledge against a lesser knowledge. He doesn't knock his victims down but instead he puts them down making himself appear superior above...well, everyone. Perhaps you've known someone like this?

Feelings of inadequacies often play a role in the making of a bully, male and female. I knew a woman once who was raised in stark poverty, who went to school with only one dress to wear for at least a year or two. Some of the other girls made fun of her and so she retaliated by closing down her emotions and becoming calloused toward others. She certainly attempted to bully all those around her, including her faithful husband, to get her way. Whenever she didn't get her way she would cuss and scream until she did and that was her way of bullying, of making people conform to her demands, her needs and her desires. Beneath the surface, however, the bully remained, beneath the surface, the bullied little girl who was so impoverished, growing up to be so self-protective that she became a tyrant within the perimeters of her own world. And woe to those around her who didn't bow to that tyranny. There are a great many bullies who are typically verbal abusers!

According to some experts the middle-class bully is a person who actually believes in his or her own superiority,BullyCredit: www.artpulsemagazine.com that he or she is deserving to have the unwavering respect and admiration of others. This type is typically ambitious and may even be among the top of his class and/or an outstanding athlete. I do not accept the concept that this particular person is so self-assured, however. I believe that somewhere, deep in the chasms of his mind, at least for a great many bullies, there are fears of rejection; that there is a deep hurt that is being suppressed below his superior attitudes. And, the more he strikes out against those weaker than he is, the more he convinces himself that he is what he pretends to be and how he imagines himself being conceived of by others.

The impoverished bully, in general (there are exceptions) becomes a bully out of deeply rooted anger and self-deprecation. The chances are that he has been neglected and unloved by the significant others in his life. As a result he wants to revenge the world for his pain. Kids who join gangs and devote themselves to them have typically found acceptance by their peers....the tougher he is (or appears to be) the more acceptance is granted him. This "gang" acceptance alone can be a magnetic incentive for especially young people who otherwise feel inadequate and unwanted on their own.

The place to stop gang violence is not on the street where it is already a reality but in the home before that reality eventuates for the kids living there. Neglectful parents need educated far more than their children need punished.

Aspects of the Bullied

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The theories about bullies are widespread with studies and analysis going on all around the globe. Comparably, little is said about the bullied. Certainly it is generally agreed by the experts that children with physical defects, are overweight or even not very good looking are most apt to be targeted by school ground bullies. In fact, it is not unusual for many parents and other authorities in a child's life to point out the defects of others and even make fun of them.  The point being that a child simply doesn't judge others by appearance until he or she is socialized to do so. Indeed, a child may be curious about the different skin color of another child but there is no racism until his peers, parents or some other authority begins to make racist remarks. All racism and sexism is learned!

I recall a boy in my fifth grade class, James. James was a frail, studious kid who got excellent grades but had no schoolmates or friends and did not participate in any school games or sports. He had a nervous habit of twisting his hair while sitting at his desk. And so, not only did school bullies pick on him but other kids bullied him too just because he was so vulnerable to being made fun of and pushed around. (I moved from the school so I have no idea what happened to him).

When I was in sixth grade I was bullied by a teacher. She would make me stand in front of the class and read even though I had a mouth full of braces and slurred my words. She would ask my classmates if they could "all" understand me clear and of course many of the boys would hold their hands up saying they couldn't. As a result the teacher would slap me and pull my hair, making me read again. Obviously she was a nut-case herself (*finally fired from her job) but the point I want to make is that I had enough gumption and self-esteem not to be bothered by the name calling, mocking or laughter. A great many kids don't. In this view, I do not accept the concept that children have been bullied into committing suicide at least not conclusively. There is after all that old wisdom that says, stick and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. I venture to say that a child who permits being called names put him or her in serious despair has a problem at home. That is, rich or poor, the parent or other authority in his or her life has neglected that child's need to have his or her worthiness reinforced; to be given certainly that, regardless of his shortcomings, he or she is loved anyway.

In regard to the above, recall that for all the earlier years of a child's life, he believes that his parents' world is the world. Thus, his (or her) own self image and self assurances arrive from the home environment. (I was fortunate because as a poor kid I was given the back-porch philosophy that gave me to believe that where there's a will, there's a way...that I didn't have to take a backseat to anyone and every time that I was knocked down, I had to get up again because the harder the fall, the higher the bounce and so forth. A great many kids simply do not get that kind of psychological support and when they don't, they are apt to become the bullied).

In light of the above, it is said that teens who have committed suicide because of being bullied have (1) mental illness (2) are deeply depressed/hopeless and (3) lack parents support. The lack of parent love and caring 1 and 2 can follow.

*The entire story can be read in my autobiography.

Random Observations of Social Structures and Kid Violence

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As we have read earlier in this report, in essence, our civilization is based upon systems of bullying by the few while the many are bullied. Capitalism itself has turned into a form of social/economic-Darwinism. In the U.S. this Darwinism has been growing since shortly after the Civil War way back in the mid 1800s. Certainly ordinary people, living ordinary lives, probably do not feel the "bullies'" crunch beyond now and then. For example, complaining about their treatment at the DMV. or some other bureaucracy. Because there are people unaware of social-bullying, however, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.  Read James Bovard!

While social bullying is a topic deserving it's own book, it is mentioned here only to say that, as all socio-cultures, we are a collection of individuals condemned to be obedient and obey, not so much differently than school children walking in line behind their teacher. The kids would love to go romp on the grass but dare not break away from the system. The great American paradox, after all, is, Freedom under the Law.  

The dilemma here is that over-parenting can be just as destructive as under-parenting. That is, parents who are too strict can be very intrinsic in developing a child who can be bullied. Parents who are too lenient can be intrinsic in developing a child who becomes a bully. The point being that, by and large, the bully-nature and bullied-nature are typically a result of the significant others in a child's life. A neglected child is certainly going to be more prone to becoming bullied than the spoiled child who may develop into a schoolyard bully. Nothing, as said, is written in stone, however, so this can sometimes be reversed. The point remains, however, that it is nearly always the home environment that shapes a child's personality. If you want to read more about killer kids, read KatherineRamslandat http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/weird/kids1/media_7.html.

In the meanwhile, here is Eric SmithbullyCredit: www.skcentral.com a young boy made victim of bullying because of his thick glasses and other unique features such as freckles. He retaliated by taking his inner-rage out on an innocent four year old when he was thirteen. This bullied kid, suddenly becoming the bully...Indeed, the harsh bully like Eric fits snuggly into the scenario of many other school-house kids going on shooting rampages.

Even a more bazaar example of a kid killer is Barry Dale LoukartisbullyCredit: www.merderpedia.org seen here at the time of his arrest. His murdering spree, however, leads us back into the home but not necessarily to parents. In this case, to the television set.

Media and Kid Crime

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At least in the not so distant past there was a lot of controversy about so much sex and violence on television; not only on cable but network as well. Since my childhood evolved before the antihero my entertainment was all about the good guy always defeating the bad guy for the good of others. These included Gene Autry, Roy Rogers,

Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, the Cisco Kid and others. Most readers won't know these names but as kids we wanted to emulate these heroes who always stood up for the little guy, saved the poor damsel in distress and won against the odds. Today the hero typically cusses up a storm, gets naked with cute honeys and kills without flinching. In many instances he is a killing machine with no feelings or empathy whatsoever.

There are of course those in the entertainment lobbies who flatly deny that these movies have any ill-effect on children but, let's face it, when the lack of morals and ethics are portrayed as the norm, especially by super heroes, a child's mind is obviously going to make conscious and...unconscious value judgments. And this brings us to some of the horrors of a great many video games that are all about killing and wiping people out. I will only say this much about such games: They  are the same games or similar to the very game the military uses to train their snipers. That's right, the idea is that if you kill enough in the virtual world, you'll find it much easier to take a life in the real world. It's as simple as that. Now then, as parents or caring adults, do you still agree that these games are not influential?

In February of 1996, Barry Loukartis dressed up much like a gunslinger of the old west, walked into his algebra class with two pistols, a high-powered rifle and nearly eighty rounds of ammunition. He ended up killing three and wounding others.

How easy is it to actually kill someone? Stop and think about it. But what if you had been watching pathological murders almost since you could go to the bathroom by yourself?  Michael P. Ghiglieri tells us that by the end of elementary school the typical child has watched 8,000 murders on television and by the age of eighteen the average American has witnessed around 18,000 murders on the boob tube. Now add hours of  playing vicious, shoot-em-down, blast-'em-away video games plus seeing a few "killer" movies and tell me what you think, Mom...Dad...Aunt Rose...Uncle Bob, about what your loving little jack and Jill are watching.

Of course not every kid is going to run out and shoot up his school because he has been exposed to psychopathic entertainment or games. In fact, most kids won't. However, I strongly suspect that a great many children will have their worldview corrupted at least to one level or another.  After all, as Ghiglieri tells us, "TV programming is a prime cultural-subcultural dynamic in the sociological analysis of murder..."

Curing the Cause

We have journeyed quite a distance and taken a number of side trips to reach this juncture of the article. One, major way of avoiding being bullied by social systems or individuals is to learn to think as opposed to follow. To be bullied, at least to one degree or another, is to be coerced into following.

This does not suggest that you need to become a rebel with or without a cause; conformity by free choice is ever as much a legitimate choice, as choosing non-conformity. What is important is to teach your children to simply THINK before they act...before they accept information...before they follow any yellow line. Remember life is standing at one fork in the road after another, you want your children to have the awareness that permits them to make the best choices that they can. The first "best choice" is not to take anything or anyone at face value. Most bullies after all, are egocentric and cowardly when push comes to shove.

Another question concerning all this for most sincere parents is, how do I teach my child not to be bullied and not to bully, to always strive to do his or her best and what is right as opposed to wrong.

I have been answering this question for years in my writing and my few lectures: Do NOT teach your children what is right and what is wrong...because the rules change at least every decade...social mores grow more out of ignorance than anything else. Homosexuality, for example, was considered a disgrace and so wrong not too long ago and now it is accepted as being "right," if that is what an individual is...there was a time when society condemned women who had babies out of wedlock, today there are women who freely choose to be single moms...it was once considered naughty and unladylike for a woman to show her ankles in public...today we see nudity on media and no one thinks much about it...Our ideas of good are constantly changing, what was considered downright evil to our grandparents is acceptable in today's world. And what about the real nut-cases? The fundamental Muslims who acknowledge God as being Goodness when they successfully kill a bunch of innocent, unexacting people. A good example of one person's "good" being another person's "bad" or evil.

My instruction is DO NOT teach your children what is good and what is evil, as these terms have different meanings world round. Californians, for example, live much freer than do Utahans because more human action is considered wrong/bad or evil in Utah than California. What we are likely to call sin, another culture accepts as virtue and so forth.

Have I made my point?

If you want your child to grow up with solid character, flatly refuse to teach him or her what is "good or bad" or what is "right and wrong" since even what we called wrong a few years ago is called right today. If you want your child to ALWAYS make the right decision, teach him or her to always decide what is cruel and what isn't.

After all when we do the KIND thing, we automatically do the RIGHT and GOOD thing. In fact, I offer that folks who choose kindness over all other human action will never become bullies or become their victims either.

And finally, remember too that to one degree or another, we are all victims or victors of our own childhoods. How you treat your children is teaching them: Kind and conscientious parents invariably raise kind and conscientious kids...and kind and conscientious kids invariably grow up to be kind and conscientious adults.


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