Bullying – Bringing it all Back Home

If the power to intimidate is derived from a 'legitimate' source the term 'bully' is not applicable.

When I promised a summation of conclusions about bullying behavior based on ponderings and experiences described in those recent other posts, I didn’t grasp what I was setting myself up for.  Every direction I took in my thinking led to unsettling places I couldn’t trust without backing up and thinking it through from other directions.

If you’re new to this blog and haven’t read the earlier posts it’s possible you’ll find it easier to follow if you read them first.

More Future Me: Bass-ackwards Letter to the Past
A Bullying Commie Americauna
The Bullying Homestead Part 2
Half-Century of Male Evolution – Bullying Part 3
Stolen Horses and Baby Rattlers – The Anatomy of a Bully – Part 4

Okay, all that prefacing and cowardly side-step-waffling out-of-the-way, here’s what eventually I found myself inescapably glued to as a conclusion:

Bullying is so much a part of life on this planet we don’t even notice it.  It’s the glue holding every community together, every species, cross-species, inter-species.  It’s the determinant governing community behavior of every description.  We just don’t recognize it as bullying unless it falls into a class of activities we happen to disapprove in our matrix of human-cum-societal judgements.

That’s if ‘bullying’ is defined as a behavior, as opposed to being anchored to a larger concept:  the source from which the power being exerted is derived.  Building a concept bounded by ‘legitimacy’ and protocols does allow what we usually label bullying to be cut out of the herd and isolated in a pen of repudiation.  But by doing so we’d be forced to accept an equally unpalatable conclusion:

If the ‘bullying’ behavior subtracted from the bullying definition is legitimate because it derives power from approved sources of authority is an important piece of what holds things together, we’re stuck with it.  Lock, stock and banana-peel.  As an example, that 5th grade teacher of mine who liked to beat-hell out of me and other kids who weren’t in a ‘protected’ mode, wasn’t bullying us at all.  Reason being that his power derived from his position as a designated tool of the power of legitimate authority.

Similarly, all that Jew-baiting that went on in the 3rd Reich and elsewhere in the world.  The pervasive use of police forces to beat hell out of union strikers in the late 1800s and early 20th Century.  The iron fist used constantly after the Indian wars in the western US to keep tribal members on the REZ and out of the hair of the ‘legitimate’ citizenry far into the 20th Century.  The removal of the tribes east of the Mississippi, to designated places west of the Mississippi, even though doing so was a clear violation of previous treaties and agreements.  National Guardsmen shooting students at Kent State.  Policemen spraying little old ladies with mace.

Almost overnight, previously accepted non-bullying behavior/attitudes can become disgusting examples of bullying.


Sometimes focusing precisely on where the power resides becomes ambiguous.



Other times it’s not ambiguous in fact, but owns the tacit approval of de facto power.


Sometimes it’s bullying when it happens to the the group in question, but non-bullying when they’re doing it.


Sometimes it’s just a matter of being the wrong place at the right time.


And when the ‘legitimate’ source of power tacitly approves it, it’s not bullying.


So when a cop tasers a ten-year-old kid it’s actually business as usual.   It might eventually become ‘brutality’ or might be deemed excessive force, but it will never become ‘bullying’.

But it gets more complicated than that.  There’s a more subtle side of non-bullying we all see so frequently we take it for granted.   For instance, the entire pantheon of political rhetoric today is choreographed to  promote an atmosphere of something akin to bullying, character assassination, and denigration of the opposition.  But because it’s satisfying to the targeted body of listener/participants, it’s ‘legitimate’.


Bullies constantly strive to give the moral high ground to their attitudes and behavior.  Frequently, they succeed, and when they do those attitudes and behaviors cease to be bullying.  Probably the best example can be found in the most non-bullied segment of society filling the jails and prisons in the U.S.  Prostitutes.

They do openly and honestly what millions of women do every night with less honesty, more covertly, in singles bars and honkytonks.  They do it on streets surrounded by ‘legal’, ‘legitimate’ porn houses run by ‘legitimate’ businessmen and patronized by ‘legitimate’ consumers paying to observe the act of fornication.

But prostitutes enjoy the unique, traditional status of being bullied by pimps and johns, brutalized and extorted for sex by cops, exploited by lawyers, and of being the ‘product’ passing through the criminal justice system into the prisons-for-women industry.

They’ve never achieved the sanctity of the moral high-ground to get wives, girl-friends, and ‘respectable’ women objects of scorn and outlawed.  They’ve never found a reservoir of support to allow them to see those other classes of women outlawed and thrown into jails.

But they probably would if they could.

Inside they’re almost certainly bullies, too, like cops and schoolteachers, and like you and me.

Old Jules

 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?

17 responses to “Bullying – Bringing it all Back Home

  1. I think somewhere in the mix is the basic concept that defense is non-bullying. But again, that puts us back in the circle of arguing what constitutes valid use of force.

    • Morning Ed. Good seeing you. Defense is one of those buzz words with a different definition in the head of each person saying it, thinks I. At a personal, individual level it’s probably valid. When the boundaries of the word move outward it probably loses a lot of meaning. Thanks for the visit. J

  2. Great post! how far have we really come?! It seems like we’re embracing our diversity, but people are hung up on petty differences. If only our energies could be used more efficiently.

    Despite the apparent ‘lack of outcome’ this occupy movement has, we’re still for it! Viva la resistance!

    – The Eye


  3. Bullying is not a good thing, but it’s not new. What’s new is the ability to humiliate someone digitally. What leads people to commit suicide is the fact that their parents haven’t spent the time my parents did – instilling a secure sense of self. Three different girls tried to do the bullying thing with me during my junior/senior high years and I ignored them into looking ridiculous themselves. Then came the sexual harassment years – and I got a good laugh out of those, too.

  4. “But they probably would if they could.”

    That’s a harsh comment on human behavior, but, unfortunately, probably accurate.

    Now why can’t we just all be nice to each other I will never understand…

  5. Looks like society has always despised true honesty to me and rejects all who don’t hide behind a mask of some sort and meld into the herd. Great post!

  6. I’ve been thinking about this lately with the publicity given to the young people who’ve killed themselves over the past couple of years and wondered if it is learned behavior passed down from generation to generation. From your post I can see that it is not just parents, but society as a whole that is teaching children to bully in the name of righteous indignation. I think you are right- we all have the potential, just some of us fight it.

  7. Old Jules-
    thanks for stopping by http://www.raisingable.com at my bullying post.
    Bullying is part of the animal kingdom, and at our core, we’re animals.
    The question is, can we use our brains to overcome our instincts?
    I have a school program that’s almost as crazy as Old Jules- you’ll appreciate it because you have chickens — http://www.fowlbehavior.net.

    • raisingable: As crazy as Old Jules? Come now! I’ll have a look. I’ve never managed to use my brain to overcome my instincts, but I think it might happen somewhere sometime. Gracias, Jules

  8. I was going to raise a similar point as raisingable: there is a confusion instilled in the minds of the people of the past several centuries brought forth by the Founding Father’s of the USA, in that they wrote and codified the sentiment that “all men are created equal.” This is just not the case. That is not to negate that “all men should be treated equally,” but no two people are alike in their strengths, talents, and abilities. We are animals, and we exhibit hierarchy and pecking orders as all animals do, from the amoeba to the highest functioning mammals, including us monkeys.

    We, as a species, have just perfected a perverse fetish for such behavior to the point that it has become pathological in its manifestations.

    I am not sure why or where people ever got the idea that we are, as a species, somehow not like other animals. Oh… yeah, religion.

    Great, thought provoking post! Thanks.

  9. You Were Born To Succeed

    I agree with ejalvey. Many (most?) humans seem to think they are superior to animals (and each other) just because they don’t understand animal (and each other’s) language. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Nobody is “perfect.” And we’re not getting out of this alive. We talk a lot, but the reality is who we are. We can’t hide that.

    Blogs like yours, Jules, and the discussions it creates confirm my belief that little by little life on Planet Earth is getting better and better, and sooner or later the tide will turn, critical mass will shift toward the positive, and things will get better faster.

    Call me a cockeyed optimist. I can take it.

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