(Photo credit: Resilient Educator)
Every school board in Canada, public or private, has a well-defined policy regarding bullies and bullying. Whether written in English, French, or one of the indigenous languages, they all say pretty much the same thing. They all declare a no-tolerance approach (so far so good), and an “everyone is equal in every way” ideology that must be actively affirmed.
Here in Canada, those who dare to quarrel with such fine principles, regardless of their reasons, are quickly shamed and shouted down. So much for open democratic discourse. (Hmm – isn’t shouting down people you disagree with and don’t like a form of, ahem, bullying!!)
Perhaps one might still propose that the concept of full equality in everything does not hold up scientifically. For example, we cannot simply decree that someone who is four-foot ten is physically equal to the giant who is seven feet tall, or other heights in between. But that does not justify declaring the seven-footer a bully because he is so imposing in size that even upon entering a room some people feel intimidated. For that matter, some midgets might so label the 4-10er if they are only 3ft.-8 inches.
What about the gap between the genius with an IQ of 180 and the less intellectually gifted person with an IQ of eighty? Can we realistically legislate equality in school evaluations and in prospects for certain sorts of careers and activities? Or, am I discriminated against and oppressed because, no matter how much I practice and strive to master the piano, I will never play a fraction as well as Glenn Gould? Not being a genius financier or entrepreneur, how can I possibly claim equality of outcomes in wealth with Musk or Buffet or Bezos as my right?
The craze to assert total equality regardless of the limitations of how the real-world works is delusional, regardless of how much regulation and legislation the ideological visionaries insist upon. They themselves demonstrate the principle of innate inequality, being the elite of rationality and scientific social engineering by which they deem themselves qualified to enlighten the rest of us by their superior training, intellect, and insight and, dare we say, greater opportunity (often stemming from an inside track within their own specialized circles).
However, there is no doubt that true bullying should not be tolerated and everyone must be recognized as equally human and worthy of respect and equal treatment under the law. As long as the law is not – as Clarence Darrow so eloquently put it a century ago “an ass”.
We must ask what truly constitutes bullying or should be encompassed in redressing the actual oppressive and unjust kinds of inequality which exist. It does nothing to resolve such issues to say, in progressive “Woke”-speak, that the bully is barely if at all really responsible for his/her propensity to torment the victim. It is similar to the line that criminals are first victims before they are criminals and so must not be victimized by punitive laws and penalties for their socially unacceptable misdeeds and predatory behaviours. Following that track, the school bully is a victim him-herself before ever entering full-blown bullyhood. After all, they have been socialized into bullyhood rather than having chosen it.
The narrative says, “Perhaps the parents bare no blame either, or, if so, little. For they too are victims of their own parents (etc. ad infinitum) and of the uncouth and unenlightened vestiges of the “old days” when intolerance and prejudice and racism were so openly manifested. Everyone unfortunate enough to be born “back then” (whenever that was) is/was strongly inclined to be insensitive, judgmental (because of the old-time religion still afflicting the masses in those days), rough, and definitely more susceptible to become a bully.” (But there is no reciprocal judgmentalism in categorizing the laggards in fully accepting the latest and best forms of progressivism as “Neanderthals” and “Nazis” and “Fascists”?)
The pejorative use of “back then” and “back in the day” points to the (bad old) times when the Church still mattered, religion still had a toe-hold in the schools, and the Bible still got quoted as a source of helpful insight and even moral instruction. It was still actually read by a large minority of the population, and many of its stories were at least vaguely familiar to a large segment of the Canadian (and Western) populace.
Assuredly, “back then” there was indeed racism lurking in the corner and sometimes staring you in the face. Assuredly, there were still a lot of inequities and injustices in many aspects of the social, economic, and political life of Canadian and Western civilization. Even now, for all our trying to escape this cycle, we still seem to harbor the same sort of issues lurking in our own corners. But, circularly reasoned, “that must be because we are still victims of the eternal regression of wrongful parenting and superstitious indoctrination.”
Does anyone else hear Hamlet’s mutter to himself about Ophelia, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much” – to be at all convinced by this very unhelpful narrative?
The post-war WW2 evolution of Canada and the West has seen huge strides forward from many of the worst aspects of such inequities, (inequity is a much more useful term than inequality, by the way), but there is still doubtless much yet to do. We have had fifty years of cumulative effort to undo many of the targeted wrongs and dig up their roots in order to remake many facets of our culture and society. We have opened the doors to all kinds of corrective legislation and consequent programs to insert unheard of and novel rights into our constitutional and legal framework. We have never seen so much guilt and shaming and accusing. But we are still bound by our chains.
It is morally incumbent on us to do our best to right historic wrongs, unmask genuine malice and racism, and provide protection and redress to oppressed minorities and threatened individuals suffering from genuine persecution, torment, and intimidation. What there is an issue with is the almost complete denial of individual choice and responsibility of the individuals and groups concerned. At bottom, that means all of us. For we have all bought into the “I’m not responsible” ideology wherein “the Devil made me do it” as Flip Wilson used to so comically say (except that 60% of us apparently no longer believe in the Devil). One of the outcomes of that is a denial of the ability of the victims to do anything for themselves to confront the bullies because only the almighty state and its authorized agents can save them. In fact, if you dare to stand up to a bully and pull it off, you may yourself even end up standing trial or facing a punitive tribunal.
I do not mean to ignore the sense of complete powerlessness and even of terror which often paralyses the victims of oppression when they are face to face with their oppressors. That too is reality. But that terror does not preclude or deny the victim’s possibility of acting on their own behalf to confront, expose, or, if possible, escape the bully. Obviously, many victims have no opportunity or power to actively confront their bully and escape their situation; but many who could make such a choice choose to remain where they are from fear, denial, wishful thinking about some miraculous turn-around, or plain old bad advice from some trusted source.
At the macro level, it is completely unhelpful to automatically label groups in Western culture and society oppressors, intimidators, bullies, and abusers of others. Recent extreme declarations such as “All whites/Euro-settler-descendants are automatically racists and oppressors whether they believe it or not, whether they have ever acted that way or not” serve no purpose but to heap guilt and shame on everyone. This is really reverse-racism, no better than the white supremacists saying “all _______ are born _______ (insert your adjective of choice)”. Eventually, people just go deaf to this kind of hyperbole.
Euro-Canadians (“Settlers” in our current lingo regarding Canada’s indigenous issues) and Christians both stand out as the great historic bully-villains in the now received narrative in Canadian cultural life. There is no denying the abuses and wrongs committed over several centuries by Europeans against other ethnicities. Since Europeans and their almost wholly white descendants also happened to claim to be Christians in overwhelming majority, it is only natural to couple the two in the progressive narrative (ironically, also usually framed by Euro-settler descendants who now know better and can therefore mostly excuse themselves from the guilt and shame since they know better).
We shall continue to explore how all this connects to the issue of “Bullies” in our next instalment.