It’s the latest epidemic of choice; championed by celebrities, government programs and televised public service announcements. But it’s not breast cancer, smoking or AIDS. In fact, it’s not a disease at all. It’s bullying. You can hardly watch television, surf the web or even listen to the radio without being reminded about the damage done by bullying and what you can do to stop it. For the profoundly uninspired, they even offer government-approved scripts for determining what to say in bullying situations - distilled down to a political-correctness so pure than you can almost clean tile with it. But as a former victim of bullying, I’m here to say that the government’s got it all wrong. Because unlike the other diseases-de-jour that pop-culture has taken on, bullying isn’t all bad. Sure, back in 1989 as a 4’11” high school sophomore, I didn’t see any good in the inevitable daily beatings I endured - but looking back, I don’t think I’d trade them. Sure, no evil should be allowed to exist unchecked, but as Newton discovered lifetimes ago, each force begets its opposite, and the universe is nothing else if not balanced. In order for there to be champions there must be their foils, and what good are white hats if no one wears black ones? So, in the interests of defending the indefensible, here are 3 reasons we shouldn’t get rid of bullies:
1. Someone to Hate. There are no great parables about the power of hate, the endurance of a vengeful heart, or the strength that can be gleaned from a need for redemption. Even those stories that do highlight the “dark” side of motivation tend to be cautionary tales that teach that nothing good come from these negative emotions, and that true happiness and success can only be found through love, forgiveness and peace. But what about Darth Vader? No, not the wussy Vader that George Lucas foisted on us via Hayden Christensen in the most celebrated neutering this side of Lorena Bobbitt. No, I mean the Empire Strikes Back Vader, the seven feet of badassery and heavy breathing, running-a-spaceship-the-size-of-a-planet while wearing a cape Vader. Pure evil and hate - and totally kicking ass as a result. So what if he gets his comeuppance later on in the story? Don’t we all? What about that whole “it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” crowd? Why doesn’t that same logic hold true for hate? Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a proponent of hate for no reason, disproportionate revenge or love being of no use. But hate with a good reason is a powerful motivator. If someone does you wrong, the desire to strike back is not only natural, it can drive you to extraordinary feats (Daniel Laruso’s gonna fight?). Bullies give us focus, a driving force in a world which not only accepts but nearly encourages our mediocrity. Because between a person that thinks the world has screwed him over and a person that thinks someone else has screwed him over, which one do you really think has it all wrong? And which one are you betting on to do something about it?
2. Survival of the Fittest. Physical strength plays an increasingly small part in our day-to-day lives, as our gentrification has slowly creeped into feminization. The current youngest generation has become so far removed from a good ass-kicking that when you talk about beating someone up, you actually have to clarify that you don’t mean doing it online. If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, try listening to a teenager talk to an adult sometime. If I would have called a grown-up “dude” or “bro” when I was a kid,I knew my dad would have hit me hard enough to knock a molar out of my head - which is why he never had to. We live in an almost completely consequence free environment, where anyone can mouth off however they’d like, with no fear of reprisal. Bullies are a reminder that no matter how far we may live from the Galapagos Islands, we are still a Darwinian species, and there is a biological imperative that the strongest amongst us do the most reproducing. I would submit that if you haven’t met a kid lately who needed a good beating, you haven’t met a kid lately. Violence doesn’t solve anything? Ha! That’s the way we’ve solved things for thousands of years. The Romans weren’t keen on “talking things out,” and where would we be if the American colonists had simply tried “communicating their feelings” to the British? Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from reprisal if you say something stupid, it just means freedom from reprisal from the government. Bullies are a reminder of the age old saw “no matter how big you are, there’s someone bigger” and its implicit corollary “and if you say something to piss them off, they’ll kick your ass.” Bullies are the natural predator of weakness, and it should come as no surprise that as we begin to kill them off, the weakness will reproduce unchecked.
3. Something For Everyone. The latest childhood obesity statistics are staggering and tragic. Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese and since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled. If you don’t believe these numbers, go to your local Wal-Mart during non-school hours. Trust me, after that you’ll wonder why they’re so low. But that notwithstanding, we’ve got a lot more fat kids than we used to - and they’re going to need something to do; something to be. We already know they can’t play kickball worth a damn, and we only need five or so for the offensive line. So what does that leave? Bullying. Bullying is not only the fat kids’ way to exorcise demons, it’s a way for them to exercise, period. What could possibly burn more calories than chasing around the smaller, nimbler kids in a attempt to assert some kind of dominance based on an overactive pituitary gland and poor dietary habits? If you take away bullying, what are these kids going to do - talk out their problems? Look, if talking burned enough calories to keep you thin, I’d never have to exercise (trust me). Besides, in this era of trophy parenting and loving yourself exactly the way you are, bullying finally gives these roly-poly youngsters something to be ashamed of - Lord knows that looking in the mirror isn’t doing it for them. It’s the natural order of things: bigger kids beat up smaller kids, smaller kids grow up to run companies and keep those bigger kids employed in the worst possible jobs. Besides, do you really want someone who can’t reliable control what they toss down their throat controlling an entire company?
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The problem with bullying is not that it exists or that it serves no purpose; it’s that we’ve let stronger instrumentalities into the hands of children - and therefore into the hands of these bullies. When you go past fists and words, you can do some real damage, and no one wants to see that. If we want a crusade - that’s where we should start: no weapons, no unlawful harassment. But learning that bullying is wrong, or on the other side, how to deal with, utilize or rise up against bullying, are important life lessons that children should not be deprived of, just because we think they can’t handle it. Kids are tougher than we give them credit for. Just because they are emotional doesn’t mean they’re emotionally scarred for life. Bumps and bruises heal on the young body just as quickly as they do on the young mind. And these trials and tribulations are just as, if not more, important than the trophies, atta-boys and positive reinforcement that has become unimodal modern parenting. After all, if it wasn’t for bullies, I’d never be the man I am today - which means if I ever see him again I’ll probably want to shake James Richmond’s hand... right after I punch him in the mouth.