Thursday, May 26, 2011

You big bully

It is horrifying, no doubt.

I read the article and I noted that not much was said about solutions. The common wisdom that we have now come to expect on stories of this type was included. We should "look for signs" of bullying (or drug use, or any number of other things) and we should have a conversation about it. Obviously I am not coming out against keeping an eye on your child and his/her well-being and nor would I advocate against discussing issues. My point is, why is this best advice offered? In my opinion, it is because solutions are the tricky bit. I was reminded of the old Mark Twain quote: "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." It is easy to say bullying is bad and hurts people. It is really quite another thing to talk about fixing that as a society.

Maybe we will start by employing the tactics and policies we've employed on other issues. We will declare war on bullying. I personally appreciate this as we don't get to declare war on a verb all that often. This is entirely unlike the 'ism' category. We are especially fond of declaring war on those. I think it is mainly because most of your 'isms' involve a system of ideas (communism, terrorism, etc.) and we are naturally well disposed to find a set of ideas with which we disagree. Then it is a short hop to declaring war on them. This makes us feel better immediately irrespective of any results out on the battlefield. The mere act of declaring the war is like a national salve for Americans.

Once we've declared war on bullying, we are going to need an army to fight that war. We won't call it an army because that word makes us uncomfortable. As it turns out, we are a very warlike people but we don't much care to see ourselves that way. This leads us to couch things in less direct terms. Maybe we could use Anti Bullying Protection Force. They could be a branch of the TSA which is part of Homeland Security. Given that so much of what we are about is declaring war on things, I think it might be great to run most of our government under that umbrella. It would be great for jobs. All those ABPF officers will use their paychecks to go out and purchase goods made in Malaysia, Korea, China and Japan. A total win-win.

 As far as kids getting bullied, don't expect much change in that situation. We can't even accept the fact that most kids are bullied by (insert drum roll here) other kids! This makes us very uncomfortable. Why? A number of reasons come to mind. One is that half the time we are idealizing children as little angels send directly from God. This flies in the face of the fact that children are selling dangerous drugs to other children, bullying other children, abusing other children, and on and on.

I know what you are thinking. He only accounted for half the time. Very perceptive. The other half of the time we are demonizing children. (Hey, no way!) Yes, I'm afraid so. As soon as children don't act like the little angels we've idealized them to be, we arrest them and try them as adults. Ooops. Didn't we engineer separate categories into our legal system in order to reflect what we instinctively know about them? Children are different from adults in their understanding of the rules and their ability to predict and comprehend the consequences. Well, yes, that's true. However, as soon as that became uncomfortable, we just bent the categories to fit our rage. So who's the bully now?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Frenetic Lives

What if we are victims of our own success?

What if we are designed to assimilate change at a more modest pace?

What if the profound changes in our lifestyles over the past century have lead us

from an old world with, arguably too few choices, into a dazzling new world

with too many choices?