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Dealing with Bullies

Tuesday, February 08, 2011
When I was a kid I got in fights a lot. Most were a response to someone trying to dominate me in some way, and when that happened I always resisted, resistance that often led to violence. Sometimes I was the one who "started" the fight. It depended on what type of bully I was dealing with. The ones that wanted to fight and were looking for an excuse to hurt someone - you couldn't avoid a fight with them. The fight was the whole point. They were stupid and I could usually get together some friends and ambush them on the playground. After that they'd leave you alone. The ones I really hated - the ones that I got accused of picking fights with - were the ones that wanted a symbol of subordination. They would have left me alone if I'd let them walk over me, but I never did. It was harder to get people to help you against the latter sort of bully. My classmates couldn't understand why I couldn't give way.

Either way I would end up in the principal's office. To tell the truth I lost almost every fight - I was short, fat, and not all that coordinated. But I never stopped, either during the fight or after. And by the time I was ten or eleven bigger and stronger kids had started getting the message that if they screwed with me they were going to end up underneath a bookcase (true story). After a while people decided that I just wasn't worth the trouble.

None of this is to endorse the use of violence. As an adult it would never occur to me to behave in such a way. If I were a child today it would be stupid to do so. Times were different in the eighties. Kids weren't bringing guns and knives to school. Acting like that now would get me expelled or seriously injured. I would have preferred it if teachers and principals would have stepped in and stopped the casual acts of cruelty that the strong used against the weak. But they didn't. And it was a useful lesson for me - that in life there are going to be times when there is no one in authority to guarantee justice, and when that happens you have to stick up for yourself, no matter what the cost .When you are in position of weakness, the only way to present a credible threat to deter another is to be willing to go to ludicrous lengths to retaliate.

And this is what brings me back to politics, and my frustration with a common type of liberal. Maybe it's because most left-of-center intellectuals grew up in comfortable, middle class circumstances, or maybe my childhood experiences just scarred me for life, but for whatever reason, most of my political fellow travelers, politicians or not, have absolutely no appetite for conflict. They shy away from it instinctively. These are well-meaning people that I agree with 90% of the time but who make me want to scream with frustration when they claim that surely there are conservatives with whom we can deal in good faith. Of course there are, I respond, but those aren't people with any power. The ones who do control the conservative movement, and most of the rank and file of that movement, would happily repeal the 20th, 19th, and 18th century if they thought they could get away with it. Their political agenda is quite simply one of domination: domination of women, or the poor, of anyone that isn't in their special little club. Appeasing them isn't going to be any more constructive than it would have been for me in 3rd grade. All it will do is let them win, and persuade them that they are right to hold us in contempt. The entire motivation behind right-wing psychology is that they want to dominate other people. Negotiating with people like that is a waste of time.

Maybe Barack Obama never had a problem with being bullied. It's the only thing that can explain his treatment of the Chamber of Commerce. After the chamber underwrites smears against him and his party and pushes policies that are both deeply self-interested and profoundly antithetical to the country's well-being, what does Obama do? He makes nice with them. If it had been me, I would have made a speech at the chamber all right. But they would have never invited me to another.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:07 AM
  • IMO, the weak liberals of whom you speak just basically do not have the courage of their convictions. Could maybe be the same thing with Obama, I guess, but it bothers me way more with him. A president of the United States should not lack the balls for a conflict.

    By Blogger Rebecca, at 3:13 PM  
  • Another side to it, although we'd hope for better from Obama: some of us are conflict averse because even when we've fought back, we've never come close to winning. Or even breaking even. Some of us will walk away (refusing even to turn away), angry and frustrated as hell. Because we've never had the respect for our resistance - that acknowledge that messing with us will result in bookcase incidents. We know that negotiating is useless (that lesson we've learned) but we also know that, lacking any personal experience vis a vis winning or even inflicting damage on the other, our best option is to walk away. Never, ever turning our back on the Other.

    By Blogger Belle, at 3:20 PM  
  • I don't want you to think I'm criticize people who are so frustrated that they withdraw. I don't agree with the decision, but I can certainly sympathize with it. The point I was making was the demeanor who ARE politically involved but who don't see the need to break a few eggs.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 3:41 PM  
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