So it seems there’s been some hubbub around the world recently surrounding a sixteen year old Australian student who, in the face of bullying, stood up for himself and fought back.
Good for him. I know.
Up until the age of about sixteen I dealt with a slew of “bullying”. Mostly this came from a group of pretty hateful skinhead-types who were all planning on entering the military (this was before 9/11, even). I spent the greater part of my freshman year of high school getting teased for my silly desire to dress “punk rock” and be far-left politically active. Of course, I went to a very good suburban high school which, like all schools, had a zero-tolerance policy concerning violence.
One day I couldn’t take it anymore. I was being followed by two of my tormentors in the hall, walking past other kids and even a few adults who seemed to want to just look right through the whole thing. This was after months and months of torment and bullying. I lost it. It wasn’t really a choice. I turned, quickly, caught one of the kids off guard and punched him in the face.
I was given an in-school suspension for a day.
That event was also the turning point toward what would eventually find me as one of the “alternate-but-popular” kids at school.
You see, I’ve run that event through my head so many times now that “bullying” is at the forefront of national discourse. I’m glad I did it, because after that I was afforded a sneering sort of half-respect from the kids who tormented me, and while I spent my suspension writing, reading Kant and doing token amounts of schoolwork, I also reflected upon my own self and self-presentation.
Casey Haynes got so fed up with being harassed that he bodyslammed his tormentor onto the concrete sidewalk. Way to go, Casey.
I’m sure some of you are looking at me with disgust, right now, but I think that should be evidence for the double-standard our culture provokes on issues such as this. You see, I’m not exactly a supporter of non-violence. I certainly believe that rational, face-to-face conversation and understanding are more effective and useful, but I also believe that you can’t simply ignore the fact that humans are animals of violence. Now, I want to be clear that when I use the term “violence” I’m not speaking strictly of physical violence, and that this is an immensely important distinction to make.
We are violent in that we employ force to coerce, shame, hurt or otherwise reinforce our position in a polemic. Every time you raise your voice, you’re employing violence via attempting to overwhelm and scare. Every time you steal your co-worker’s pen, your acting in violence to deprive them of resources. When our government cuts assistance to the poor, it’s an act of violence.
Physical violence is the tip of the iceberg, so we concern ourselves with it. When you chop off that tip the rest of the ice still sinks the Titanic, and this time it’s even harder to see coming.
In any case, this post has been sitting in my draft folder for too many days, now. Time to publish.