Stumbling around the internet I ran into this blog post, discussing the history of underground cartoonist R. Crumb and comparing it to that of the late George Sodini-
The writer pegs Sodini’s meltdown to his inability to distinguish himself in some way to make him attractive enough to women to overcome his omega characteristics, as R. Crumb did with his artistry.
I disagree. I have known more guys like this, and I don’t think if Sodini had had a better job and made more money he would have done any better. His fundamental problem was the inability to deal with the existential facts of his life, which he felt condemned him irretrievably.
The bullying to which Crumb’s brother was subjected is significant. Functional nerds have weird interests and limited social skills but don’t have the rage, hatred and fear that violent humiliation create. Unfortunately this isn’t regarded as a social problem- it’s actually thought to be amusing.
An example of this is an episode of “The Simpsons” where Lisa discovers a smell that nerds emit that evokes aggressive behavior from bullies. (It’s really their fault, see? They provoke it.) The bully, a large girl, is regarded as comical; the victims are regarded with malicious contempt. Child abuse by adults is regarded as a really bad thing; child abuse by other children is regarded as a moral failure by the victim.
I understand there are practical reasons for this; adults can’t supervise children all the time,and children must learn to deal with a variety of behavior as part of the socialization process. The problem is some children are larger, stronger, and more inclined to violence than others, and can’t be dealt with by communication or negotiation of any kind. And recognizing that fact, adults who supervise children such as teachers say “Too bad.”
Most kids get by one way or another. Unfortunately this leaves a few particularly vulnerable ones to suffer real harm. I haven’t found much of the way of answers for this. Nobody cares. I don’t think psychology or psychiatry have any real answers for this, beyond a certain degree of palliation. The closest I can come by is from Aphrodite Matsakis, a clinical psychologist who worked on PTSD for the Veterans Administration. She wrote a book about PTSD called “I Can’t Get Over It” which includes many helpful exercises. In it she says “Living well is the best, and probably only, revenge.”
If you come from an environment such as this, and have adapted in this way, it’s important to avoid turning too inward. Exercising and doing physical things outside- which don’t need to be expensive or complicated, just walking is good- relieve stress in a way watching TV, reading books or the internet, other kinds of interaction on the internet or playing video games don’t. It just occurred to me being outside is a trigger for a lot of people- “I might easily run into a bully out here.”
I’ve got the Crumb documentary in my Netflix queue and I’ll be interested to see the whole story. Apparently Crumb’s success with women that came after fame didn’t decrease his bitterness, but only increased it. He was never able to trust or love anybody. That’s a place I’d like to get to, and I may yet.
In the meantime I’m getting a pretty sweet motorcycle in a couple of days and hopefully will be able to do some nice fall riding.