Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Modern Bully

Has anyone noticed the new War on Bullying? Bullying has been getting a lot of press and has become quite the catch phrase. Bullying or peer intimidation pervades many aspects of our daily existence: in the workplace, schools, and now especially, the internet. Facebook and other social networking services have been linked to a number of suicides committed by distraught teenagers being harassed online. Perceived psychological abuse has its way of being just as damaging as the physical kind. Of course bullies shaking down smaller and weaker kids for their lunch money still happens and the new anti-bullying legislation being proposed probably won't have much of an effect in public schools where "zero-tolerance" is already in force. I can't blame the school system for trying. It has been suggested that the Columbine High School massacre was carried out by a pair of chronic victims of classroom bullying that went unchecked.

The psychological profile of the modern bully has been updated to include characteristics of entitlement and narcissism from the classic version that depicts the bully as a self-loathing coward who may have been (or is) the victim of abuse, especially at home.

Children enrolled in martial arts are taught the virtues of respect and self-reliance in addition to self-defense. One wonders how many youngsters who start off as shy and awkward (perfect bully fodder) really manage to break out of their shell to lose their victim mentality. How many kids can honestly say that - thanks to karate or whatever - they now can ward off the neighborhood punk with panache? To say nothing of the internet and the effects of cyberbullying.

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Blogger Budd said...

I think zero tolerence works in the bullies favor. Bullied kids don't want to fight back and get in trouble and expect the system to work for them. Unfortunately, bullies know how to work the system.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

Great topic.

I attended a lecture by Dr. Jay Carter on bullying at my daughter's school. The focus of his session was on the bully not the target. He specifically mentioned traditional martial arts as a good outlet/activity for the bully. Karate allows the bully to have physical contact in a structured environment. Interesting...

1:12 PM  
Blogger Charles James said...

Thanks, John: We are such a vicious species...

11:01 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...


Reminds me of the story of a young girl that came to school with an apple her mother packed for her. Apparently, Mom included a knife so her daughter would have something to cut the apple with. The girl, knowing about the zero tolerance policy (which includes carrying weapons in school) dutifully turned the knife in. She was praised for doing the right thing and was summarily expelled.

Thanks Michele.

The trick of course would be to convince the bully that traditional martial arts would be a good idea -- as opposed to something like MMA. At any rate it would keep a would-be antagonist off the streets. Also, a bullying type would be humbled in the presence of other trainees that could effortlessly kick his butt. (Obviously I'm being gender specific here where you weren't. Not sure if martial arts of any kind would have the same effect on female bullies. Your thoughts?)

Thanks Charles.

Yes indeed. Take heart though, some are optimistic we're improving as a race. Slightly off-topic, but not much: Evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker shares some thoughts on how he believes we've come a long way as a species concerning our propensity to violence. The clip runs about 20 min., but worthwhile.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Clint Cora said...

Ah, school bullying - some things don't change over the years. I was bullied like crazy when young but miraculously when kids found out that I started training in martial arts, the bullying suddenly stopped. It was almost like a nuclear deterrent. Never even had to use my self defense skills once on school grounds.

10:22 AM  

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