SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
March 11, 2012

Bullies

 

Over the past few years, there's been quite a bit of blather in the news about schoolyard bullies. Apparently bullies are not only a threat to the delicate psyches of our youth—they also pose a major threat to national security. A few little namby-pambies kill themselves because they can’t hack it, and suddenly new state laws are being passed and the schools are being flooded with counselors, with teachers and students alike forced to take mandatory “anti-bullying” and “sensitivity” classes. Those students accused of bullying are facing criminal charges with new steeper penalties, and those who have been bullied are being shipped off to shrinks.

        It’s all part of a trend that can also be seen in recent college grads starting new jobs assuming they will never be criticized, they will be promoted quickly and regularly, and they deserve a party (with a cake) for the tiniest of successes.

        My question is this: by mollycoddling the sissies and worms, by empowering the whiners, what kind of generation are we creating? What’s going to happen to these deluded, hyper-sensitive tots when they leave the protective custody of the schools and enter a world that doesn’t give a shit about their special needs and expectations? They’ll be like newborn fawns at the hands of their bosses, spouses, grocery store clerks, bureaucrats, airline employees, cops, and everyone else in the world who wasn’t subject to anti-bullying indoctrination. Wake up, you snivelers—the world is run by bullies.

        Everyone over the age of thirty-five grew up with bullies (unless they were bullies themselves) and lived to tell about it. At any given moment while growing up I had one bully or another to contend with. Usually more than that. At school there was an array of bullies to choose from, with varying degrees of brutality. The lightweights just called me a faggot and knocked my books out of my hands. The more serious cases arranged pile-ons in the schoolyard, snatched my glasses off and snapped them in two, and beat me with lunch boxes on the way home. In between were the threats and random pummelings from the middleweights. Many of them followed me from kindergarten through high school, and never much changed.

        During the summer when I didn’t have to worry about the school bullies, there was still the kid who lived across the street, the kid who lived three houses up the street, the kid who lived six houses up the street, the family of inbreds a block over, and the girl gang that roamed the neighborhood. They carried sticks. Even the other bullies were afraid of them.

        The weird thing about bully dynamics when you’re a kid, though, is that all those bullies at one point or another would become friends. They’d come over to my house, I’d go to theirs. It was never long before they’d resort to their natural state and resume beating me, but for awhile there—a day, a week—they were civil. It always made me uneasy.

        One summer afternoon when I was eight, I was riding my bike around the empty lot behind my house when the kid who lived six houses up walked past and shouted something about our family being poor. I’d heard it before, I was used to it, but that day something snapped. I jumped off my bike and left it in the field as I ran after him up the street.

        He stopped and turned around. When I reached him, I stopped. We stood there on the sidewalk staring at each other, neither saying a word. I was actually an inch or two taller than him, which is why I called him “The Puny Polack” behind his back. (That and the fact that he was Polish). Eventually he turned around and continued on his way. When I went inside later, I learned that both my parents had watched the scene from the back window. I don’t think they’ve ever been prouder of me than they were the day I stood up to the bully. They would’ve been happier if I’d beat him up, but still.

        It wasn’t just the kids either—adults shouted insults and pushed me down too. Hell I was twenty-three and visiting home when some guy drove past while I was on my way to the store and called me a fag. It didn’t stop in Green Bay, either. I’ve had bullies in Brooklyn, and I expect more down the line. Because it never fucking ends, no matter where you go.

        Which is why I’m awful glad I had such wide and extensive bullying experience growing up. I can deal with it now, and got a lot out of it along the way. If it wasn’t for bullies, a bunch of scrawny smart kids wouldn’t have needed to go seeking revenge by proxy, and punk rock never would have existed, Neither would underground comics, or comedians, or writers, or filmmakers. Painters, actors, mass murderers, scientists, anyone who does anything creative. The bullies, meanwhile, put on suits and went to business school while the bullied had fun and channeled their rage into interesting things.

        See? This is why I pity these sniveling little mama’s boys of today.

        If all these anti-bullying measures are effective, not only will they enter the world ready-made victims, they’ll be left without the means or impetus to create new art forms, or create anything for that matter. And without all those bullies to assistant manage the Safeways and Taco Bells of the world, the economy’s going to be in ruins. There’s only so far that holding hands and singing camp songs can get you.

        Nietzsche sure was right.

 

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