Matthew Graybosch
a cynical idealist, sf author, and full-stack developer

Bad Thoughts About Bullying

I saw a rant by somebody on Mastodon about their experiences growing up autistic but undiagnosed, and it got me thinking. It got me thinking bad thoughts.

Now, there’s a trigger warning below, but it depends on a HTML5 feature not supported in Internet Explorer or Edge. If you’re using a Microsoft browser, and you think reading the rest of this might upset you, now’s your chance to back out.

Trigger Warning: Lots of cynicism and sarcasm about bullying ahead.

Bullying Will Never End

It's time for some real talk about bullying and why we keep letting it happen. You see, there is a reason for it. You might even have suspected it yourself.

The reason is that the people in charge want bullying to happen. They find it useful. There are certain kids for whom the standard punishments are insufficient. You know who they are. You might have been one of them.

  • Weird kids
  • Autistic kids
  • Fat kids
  • Queer kids
  • Nerdy kids who aren't autistic, just obnoxious
  • Poor kids in a rich school
  • Rich kids at a poor school
  • Minority kids
  • Queer kids

Those kids need to be punished and taught their place.

The question is: how? The adults don't dare do it themselves. It would create a scandal. Public schools would be tainted by allegations of systematic child abuse.

Fortunately, the adults don't have to get their hands dirty. All they need do is look the other way as the kids root out the mutants among them.

What if the bullying goes too far and a kid kills themselves? The people in charge don't give a damn. They'll say the appropriate words about what a tragedy this child's death was, but if they cared, they wouldn't have looked the other way every time the kid got their head shoved into a toilet.

How do I know that the people in charge of schools want bullying to happen? Simple. It's still happening. If "zero tolerance" actually meant anything, you'd see kids getting expelled for bullying on the first offense. Does that happen? Not in the real world.

Now, you might want to know what happens to the kids who do the bullying and the kids who just stand by and let it happen? Well, maybe you've seen this movie.

The "blanket party" scene from Full Metal Jacket, directed by Stanley Kubrick

But we don't care if those who do the bullying and those who let it happen grow up with their humanity debased by the experience. After all, it's all part of growing up.

As for kids getting bullied? They're learning a valuable lesson that will stand them in good stead if they live to adulthood. They're learning that "justice" is just a word until you get off your ass and make it real.

You know what else bullied kids are learning, especially if the adults engage in bullying themselves? They're learning that the people in charge are the enemy. It's another valuable lesson, but perhaps not the sort we want children learning in school.

That way lies anarchism. But I digress.

What about bullying at work? The same principle applies. An employee doesn't fit in for whatever reason, but management can't quite justify firing them. But if coworkers go out of their way to make the problem employee aware that they aren't welcome, or resort to more overt methods, and the problem employee quits, then the problem is solved.

Adults in the workplace can go to HR and use magic words like "hostile work environment" because even the prospect of a lawsuit can frighten corporate management, but many people aren't willing to bite the hand that feeds them poison and expects them to be grateful for it.

Again, the fundamental lesson is that justice is just a word until you make the ideal a reality. And once you accept that your bosses are your enemy, well, that opens up options you might not have considered before.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or constructive comments, please email me. I may reply directly to you, or if I think your message might be of interest to other readers I will answer with a new blog post.