Another Bullying Note

June 21, 2012

I was in the library yesterday and picked up a comic book version of “Beowulf”, one of my favorite literary things. In the acknowledgements at the end, the illustrator, Gareth Hinds, list many martial arts instructors and schools, and then “in reference to the above” and “abject” apology to various people he has “picked on or physically bullied” and specifically lists four or five by first name and initial.

It’s funny to think of a comic book illustrator as being a bully, but there it is. I can only guess that at some point in his martial arts training some instructor saw he got his rocks off hurting people and told him it wasn’t cool. Bullies are very hierarchical people, and if this instructor or instructors were guys who could kick his ass, it might have sunk in.

I guess it’s nice he realizes he was a dick and makes a public apology for it. I don’t know how I would feel about it if I was one of his targets. Does he think it makes everything OK now? Does he expect forgiveness? Should he get a cookie? To me, an adult man who has come to the realization it’s not OK to harass or hurt people is not an example of mature wisdom, but of a pretty slow learner. That’s something you should have internalized when you were, I don’t know, seven? Nine? Certainly not later than ten.

It’s a sad commentary on our society that this kind of thing is considered normal and acceptable, and that a man would need to learn this lesson in someplace as esoteric and subcultural as martial arts training, rather than from his parents and teachers as a young boy.

Settling a Score With a Bully, 50 Years Later

June 16, 2012

A 74-year old man in South Dakota, Carl Ericsson, had a beef from high school with a 73 year-old former classmate, Norman Johnson, so he went looking for him and shot him.

The article gives you the bare facts. I’ll fill in the spaces for you. What’s most interesting are the statements of his daughter, Beth Ribstein. She attributes the shooting to jealousy. Johnson went from being a high school athlete to a college athlete to a high school teacher and coach, and was well-liked and popular around town. But what’s to be jealous of? Being a high school teacher and coach is no great accomplishment, nor is being an athlete at a small high school and college.

Ribstein is probably a bully herself. Her children are probably  bullies. It’s an attitude, more than anything else, and it runs in families. Bullies don’t look like monsters to most people; they are popular because to most people, who they can’t get away with pushing around, they know that to get what they want they need to be friendly and smile. But it’s the treatment of weak people that shows what a person’s character is really like. Ribstein believes that because her father was popular he had the right to treat a weak person badly. She brushes it off as “goofing around” of course. Bullies don’t themselves regard it that way; they enjoy the power trip, and inflicting fear and humiliation. And they enjoy the fact that they can get away with it. When called on it, they never say, “Yeah, it was fun messing with the guy. How he trembled and got red in the face! What a loser! It was hilarious!” They always say it was “just a joke”, a “prank” or “goofing around” and it should not be taken seriously.

This was probably not the only time that Johnson harassed Ericsson. There was probably a pattern, and this was the only one he told anyone about. Johnson was probably kind of a ringleader; Ericsson probably got it from others as well. He was a “student manager” by which he probably thought he could get some respect by helping the jocks, but only put him close to them where they could mess with him.

Ericsson apparently had a functional life- he worked and got married. To what extent the depression and anxiety he suffered from came from his bullying experiences you can’t say. I suspect he came from a difficult family situation, was displaying fear, anxiety and depression as a child, and that triggered Johnson’s aggression. Maybe looking at the end of his life he wanted to settle what felt like unfinished business from long ago.

Anti-bullying programs are big these days, because a few years ago the gay lobby decided it was a problem. I’m pretty sure they don’t care about straight children being bullied, and I don’t think these programs amount to much.

Johnson was, and his family are I’m sure fundamentally pretty empty people. They suck up to people more powerful, are friendly to those with at the same level and abuse those weaker when they feel like it. I doubt Norman Johnson was anybody worth emulating or envying. Or, for that matter, shooting. Maybe the best thing to do would be to say to him, “You were an asshole in high school. You’re probably still an asshole. Lots of people think you’re cool, but I know who you really are. Have a nice life, dick, what’s left of it.”

It would be great if there was some way people could come together and talk about this stuff. What would Johnson have said if Ericsson had invited him to sit down? Maybe he would have said, “Yeah, I did some mean things back then. I’m sorry I hurt you.” More likely he would have said, “That was a long time ago. You couldn’t take a joke? Why do you still even remember that? You are just jealous because I am a well-liked pillar of the community. You really are a loser, you were a loser then and you are a loser now.” Bullies never take responsibility. Teachers and other adults never take responsibility.

I have had a number of Norman Johnsons in my life. I bear a lot of hatred. But as PTSD expert Aphrodite Matsakis said, “Living well is the best, and probably the only, revenge.” Enjoy what you can out of life, how and when you can.

Being Invisible

June 9, 2012

I have been going to a church group- one of those things churches have these days where a small group of people meet on a weekday night and talk about the sermon or other stuff. I’m close to 50, most of the other people are couple around 30 with no kids. About three of these couples. There was also a single young woman of about 25 who used to come, but I haven’t seen her in a few months.

I was at the seafood counter at the supermarket this afternoon to get some fish for dinner, and I saw her at the meat counter. I wanted to say hi, I waited a bit and she moved in my direction, facing me, and I turned and said “How you doin’?” but she ignored me.

Either 1) she recognized me and didn’t want to talk to me- I had glasses on, and some beard growth, but I don’t think I looked that much different- or 2) she didn’t recognize me and ignored me for that reason.

I have had people obviously ignoring me. When I was in the Marines I was changing planes in Raleigh and saw a guy on the same flight from Basic School. But he was ignoring me- not not seeing me, not not noticing me, obviously ignoring me. He was a popular, cool guy and I was a loser so I figure OK, if that’s how you want to be about it. It was a big plane, airlines commonly used widebodies for domestic routes those days, so I wouldn’t see him on the flight anyway.

After I got on a guy asked me if I would switch seats so he could sit with his wife and kids. No problem. And who am I sitting next to? The guy continued to ignore me, and I him, all the way across the fucking country.

That’s an extreme example. I have had other people ignore me, then be forced by circumstances to acknowledge me, and be all weird about it. Or just be weird when seeing me again. I consider myself weird and awkward, but do I really have and understand social skills better than most people? Is a polite greeting to someone you have met before or are acquainted with that difficult to do? I don’t want to be buddies with you, I would just like basic human recognition, as I would extend to you.

I think this comes from childhood and adolescence. On the playground avoiding the unpopular is as important or more important than getting close to the popular. Outsiders have kind of a stink that may get on you. If you are friendly or even polite to such a person, people may associate them with you, to serious social consequence. I appreciate that but adults should be able to be polite and cordial to all others, no one is going to think you are on their social level because you say hello with a friendly face.

The Marine guy- his name is Curtis, and he’s from Michigan- was going to California, to fly helicopters. All the guys who went to flight school wanted to fly jets or at least C-130s and regarded flying helicopters as a fate worse than death. On the other hand I know various class A jerkoffs who flew F-18s, so poetic justice doesn’t always happen. I did run into another asshole from OCS who had gotten helicopters and was complaining about it to me like he had been betrayed. Boo fucking hoo.

Anyway- a lot of people are jerks, a lot of people have no class. An adult who acts like a teenage girl is pretty stupid. Worse than an omega I would say.

Reading Emotions

June 6, 2012

I found this Psychology Today article which talks about “mind-reading” or just reading emotions, especially through eye cues.

I score pretty high on the “Asperger’s Quotient” test, which you can find various places. I’m not sure if I can read people well or not. I’m pretty intuitive, but don’t feel like I can predict people’s behavior. The important thing is probably to concentrate on what people are feeling, and what they want to do, rather than what they are thinking and what they should do.

Keeping Your Chin Up

June 5, 2012

H/t to (the soon to be defunct, as you have probably heard by now) In Mala Fide, Danger & Play quote Army advice on how to get through Special Forces selection. It’s good advice in general. The highlights-

2-2. Most common mistakes in the SFAS Course

d. Showing uncontrollable fear in the water during the 50-meter swim assessment.
e. Listening and/or participating in the dissemination of inaccurate information of what to expect during SFAS. [Unless someone has verifiable credentials or objective manifestations of success, he is a loser. So why listen to him?]
g. Showing inconsistency during rucksack marches and runs.
h. Giving up on the obstacle course.
i. Not being able to do at least six pull-ups from a dead hang. This may show a lack of upper body strength.
j. Giving up on yourself. Don’t quit, let the assessors assess you. [How often do guys not approach a girl, thinking she’ll reject him?]
k. Negative thoughts. Don’t doubt yourself, believe in yourself, don’t evaluate yourself out of the SFAS Course.
l. Not taking proper care of your feet.
m. Falling asleep when you are not supposed to.
o. Not giving 100 percent. The assessors are trained to identify soldiers that are not pulling their weight.
p. Whining and complaining; nobody likes it and it doesn’t help.
q. Arguing with the cadre. It will not be tolerated and you will be terminated.
r. Failure to follow instructions. Pay attention to detail.
s. Losing your temper. Maintaining your bearing is essential to success.
t. Not being flexible. Anything and everything may go wrong, deal with it.
u. Using shortcuts or cheating. Don’t compromise your integrity, you will be dropped from the SFAS Course for integrity violations.
v. Always the first one to sit or lay down on a break.
w. Always the last one to get up when the break is over.

A lot of shit sucks, and if you are on the bottom of the totem pole it sucks that much more. When your “peers” are attacking you as well to help make themselves feel a little better, that really hurts.

The importance of remaining calm, adapting, not reacting emotionally, and making your best effort even when it looks like it won’t pay off are well-taken.