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Monday, April 2, 2012

"If Everybody Did" - Thoughts on Modern "Bullying"

If the New York Department of Education has its way traumatic words like "dancing", "dinosaur" and "Halloween" will be banned from the classroom.


Because they might "invoke unpleasant emotions in the students." (I wonder if tests are bullying under this description?  Or paying New York State tax rates at 13% on average?)

Welcome to the new world of modern "bullying."

According to a Department of Health and Human Services website "bullying" as "teasing," "name-calling," "taunting," "leaving someone out on purpose," "telling other children not to be friends with someone," "spreading rumors about someone," "hitting/kicking/pinching," "spitting" and "making mean or rude hand gestures."

What's fascinating to me is that many of these alleged "bullying" activities function in society to constrain "out of the norm" behavior, i.e., act as a governor to prevent or limit societal problems.

In a normal society (unlike the one we live in today) there are limits and constraints necessary to keep the society functioning.  For example, their might be a single well in the middle of town (a "limited resource").  So a constraint on the society is the amount of water available: without water people will die.

So to protect this resource societal constraints come into play: don't waste water as an example.

You can hear the children now: "I heard little Suzy dumped a bucket of water out," "don't make friends with little Johnny because he wastes water," and so on.

While these statement may seem cruel isn't it more cruel to waste your societies resources?  To leave others without so you can waste?  How does the mother with small children feel when she goes to the well and there's not enough water?  If little Suzy does dump out a bucket of water as waste what if that's the one bucket of water that would be enough to stop the fire from destroying the entire village?

What if these "bullying comments" are in fact the truth?

We could also imagine little Johnny poised on the garage roof - home-made wings strapped to his back - preparing to leap off in flight.

"You're going to to die, you idiot," shouts Fred, the older neighbor boy from next door.

Is Fred a bully?

Perhaps the Wright brothers were called "crazy" during their efforts to created powered flight.  Perhaps such comments spurred them on to success at Kitty Hawk?

Much of what is described as "bullying" is normal, necessary societal behavior.  And without it you'd have what I call the "What If Everybody Did" syndrome.

"If Everybody Did" is a book (see this and this) describing a world where you can actually see the consequences of everyone doing something.  The classic imagery from the tale was this: "what if everybody picked the cat up in the middle?"

The results would be:

Of course there is the more modern version: What if everybody claimed to need food stamps even when they didn't?  You'd have a $15 trillion dollar debt.

Societal pressure is exerted by many of described features of bullying - and don't get me wrong - there is a point at which true "bullying" is really a problem - but its very, very far from what people are today claiming is bullying, e.g., teasing.

And ask yourself what's worse?

A society with no bullying and consequently no societal pressure against any form of "wrong" or a a little bullying and a society that's better for everyone?

Today we live is a world where the "Free Rider Syndrome" reigns supreme (the "free rider syndrome" is a situation where people feel that they can take something, for example a "free" ride on public transportation, and that no one will notice because "what's one free ride amongst millions").

Of course, when enough people take a "free ride" eventually the system breaks.

To my mind "free rider" is the same as "what if everybody did."

So calling someone "lazy" for taking a ride on the public bus without paying makes sense - it protects societies investment in the bus service - because if too many ride for free eventually the bus system will go broke (which its doing today in many towns across the country and world for exactly this reason).

Like most things the path to hell is paved with good intentions and laws and other "bullying" nonsense is no exception.

And of course people will trot out stories of how someone killed themselves because they were "bullied to death."  But that is the extreme exception rather than the rule.  And there is likely as much chance that someone will take the same situation and turn it into something positive, e.g., a revolution for the good.

Sadly, though, in a twist of irony, "bullied to death" is presented as the consequence of "What If Everybody Did..."

This is kind of like the "free rider" on the bus claiming (or threatening) that the bus driver would lose his job if there were no "free riders" because then there would be no one on the bus for him to drive.  These events, are of course, actually unrelated.  The bus driver having a job depends on having actual, paying bus riders.  If the bus company allows free riders its not the bus driver's problem per se to solve (unless he's the one letting them on).  Similarly why does the bus company employ someone to only drive around a bus full of people not paying to ride.

Part of the problem with all of this is that today people are not educated well enough to comprehend the differences between objective fact and subjective belief.

Society may choose to allow some on the bus for free, for example, the elderly.  The assumption being that they have contributed all their lives to the betterment of society and are therefore entitled to compensation in their old age.

But some will see this as "discrimination."  And perhaps they will take it upon themselves to take a "free ride" as well - even though they have yet to contribute.

Unfortunately we live today in the world predicted by "If Everybody Did."

Everyone assumes that they are entitled to "squeeze the cat" without consequence.

And sadly they are not even smart enough to see the consequence.

Today we are "bullied" into thinking that if the bus is not full of "free riders" then something is wrong.  We are not "helping" enough.  We are not "kind" enough.  All the while driving the "bus company" out of business by jamming more and more "free riders" into the system.

Who are the real bullies here?

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