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“Russian despotism not only pays little respect to ideas and sentiments, it will also deny facts; it will struggle against evidence, and triumph in the struggle! For evidence, when it is inconvenient to power, has no more voice among us than has justice.”

-anonymous Russian

It seems to me that growing up with 6 siblings in Queens, NY (mostly brothers who beat my arse every other day) has desensitized me to some of the things that folks are sensitive about today. I was about to write a post excerpting in detail some of the things written on student environmental blogs and then asking the authors’ to explain the completely unsubstantiated commentary and propaganda for lack of a better word. But I already can predict the reactions to this. I am mean. I am intimidating and a bully. “They’re just young kids,” and so on.

You know the problem with our world? Well, actually I don’t! But these sorts of responses should concern you, no? Kids these days are given more access to information and influence than I can remember in my days. They are told from day one in college that they are leaders, that they are here to change the world and to begin their lifelong intellectual journey. Yet, we would view any attempt at actually forcing them to be accountable for what they say or do as hostile? I really don’t get it. What is an appropriate response to regular publication and promotion of misinformation? Oh, I should just relax and let it all go, because after all, when we all grow up we all become well mannered, truth-seeking people? I’ve got some ice-cubes to sell you.

And while I am being a bully (I am, of course, paraphrasing what others have said about me very recently), can we stop and reflect on what, exactly bullying is?

Bullying is a form of aggressivebehavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power. It can include verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of racereligiongendersexuality, or ability.[2][3] The “imbalance of power” may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a “target”.

Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotionalverbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation. Bullying can be defined in many different ways. The UK currently has no legal definition of bullying,[4] while some U.S. states have laws against it.[5]

Bullying ranges from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more ‘lieutenants’ who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his or her bullying activities. Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse.[6]Robert W. Fuller has analyzed bullying in the context of rankism.

Bullying can occur in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods. It is even a common push factor in migration. Bullying can exist between social groupssocial classes, and even between countries (see jingoism). In fact, on an international scale, perceived or real imbalances of power between nations, in both economic systems and in treaty systems, are often cited as some of the primary causes of both World War I and World War I

So, people post stuff all over the place with the explicit expectation that I read it and think about it. So, e-mails are sent bundled with other information that I get from various sources. And these are people who are not in ANY sort of relationship with me. They are not in my classes. They are not being coached by me. I have no influence over them in any way. And by asking questions like, “do you actually have ANY evidence that what you just wrote is true?” that is emotional abuse? What, exactly, is intimidating and coercive about it? And even if I were to agree that the mere asking of questions is mean and intimidating, would folks then also agree that by the same measure being bombarded with inaccurate, misleading and sometimes hostile information in at least on the same level? Where are the pleas for that behavior to stop?

And speaking of bullying, I think some of what “we” do to new students at colleges amounts to bullying. How many of you remember your first days on campus? I remember sitting around the freshmen quad at the fairest college with a complete bunch of strangers (and I was already shy) and being forced to share a deeply personal emotion in front of the entire group. I suppose I could lie. But could I get up and leave? Could I refuse to answer? I am sure that new students today are put in that situation more often than we were two decades ago.

3 Responses to “How to Have Oneself Removed from Polite Company, a PSA”

  1. C S says:

    Wintercow, you are positively right. Students learn in middle school to back up what they write. The fact that they are too lazy to do the research or too brainwashed from other school propaganda is not your fault.
    That they feel entitled to an opinion without evidence is the fault of many adults, over the students’ short lifetimes, not asking them “thinking questions”.
    I say keep up the good work challenging them all to do more thinking and researching about what they write.

  2. Michael says:

    Really, what do you expect from students with the typical assignments they are given? Students are basically being taught that all of the world’s most complex problems can be solved by them giving it an afternoon of deep thought (if even that much, but that is what it would take for me to earn an “A” on some of the hardest assignments). If they were to become dictators, then with the right formula and correct data, they can let everyone have their cake and eat it, too.

  3. Brad says:

    In regards to bullying, I think the definition is too broad. There is an intent in bullying, either to make the target feel like he’s in danger or to put the target in a position where they are challenged to respond, usually in a way that will get the target in trouble. A good example occurred in the 2006 World Cup Final when Zidane reacted to bullying from the Italian Materazzi and it was Zidane who received the red card and was sent off.
    Often, people will blame the target, saying that the target did something to deserve the bullying or the target over-reacted to bullying. It’s usually the target’s reaction that gets noticed and punished.
    Another characteristic of bullying is that bullies operate within the confines of the rules and laws, or operate surreptitiously. In freshman year of high school, I had a guy sitting behind me in class who would pull out hairs from my scalp one by one. My son had food thrown at him in the lunch cafeteria.
    You shouldn’t take all nasty behavior and put it in the bullying category. There’s a lot of nasty behavior that is not bullying.
    The indoctrination you had in college may, in fact, be worse than bullying and other nasty behavior. C.S. Lewis wrote: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” Do-gooders may never rest, because they are confident and righteous. Nasty people take breaks.

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