Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Proper Response to Bullying

Like so many other nerds, I was a victim of bullying in junior high school. Only once did it come to blows, when the most dedicated of my tormenters cornered me on the playground and decided to actually take a swing at me. I guess the kid had made a big deal about what he intended to do because the anticipated fight attracted a sizable number of onlookers. He actually approached me and said "let's fight", to which I responded that I'd prefer not to since I would lose. Fortunately, when he finally hit me, it was a weak punch in the stomach during a moment in which I was breathing out (which thus failed to knock the wind out of me). I was so surprised at how well I took the hit that I actually started laughing at him. This humiliated him in front of the dozen or so observers and finally his friends pulled him away. This encounter didn't make me a hero, but it did mark the end of the worst of the harassment.

At no point was there any adult involvement. The playground was large, but the teachers never bothered to police the areas farther from the buildings. Of course I never told any teachers or aides about what was happening. Those ridiculous anti-bullying ads shown during kids' programming always instruct children to tell a teacher about it. What the ads don't show is that school punishments have no teeth, that an adult can't really take any action if he or she doesn't actually see any bullying going on, and that the bully is going to wait until you're outside of school to really let you have it because you told on him.

Forcefully introducing a bully to the pavement. Awesome.

I think every nerd, geek, or outcast has dreamed about finally getting back at the bully. The scene in Spider-man in which Peter Parker, newly endowed with his Spider-man powers, finally gives Flash Thompson a taste of his own medicine is the fantasy of every comic book reader ("comic book reader" is synonymous with "nerd", "geek", or "outcast"). Well, recently one long-suffering Australian kid named Casey Heynes finally had his Peter Parker moment. The video below contains footage of the bully's justly deserved fate as well as some hilarious commentary (and a spoof of A Christmas Story) by the very funny Steven Crowder.

The news reported that Casey had "been bullied all his school life". Given his size and the fact that he was strong enough to body slam the bully, I can only guess that Casey had been a victim because he had done what the school authorities wanted and had avoided responding with physical violence.

Like Crowder I find it ridiculous that the very school officials who failed to protect Casey are now condemning his act of self-defense. The boy had tried to resolve the problem peacefully, had been struck several times before he responded, and only used enough force to end the fight. He was cornered at the time so he couldn't have alerted the authorities (who would probably had done nothing) and, having been a victim for years, was probably aware that reporting the bully would have only made his life harder.

With the video evidence showing that Casey definitely didn't start the fight and that he tolerated quite a bit of abuse before he responded with force, I can only assume that the school officials are either irate bureaucrats who realize that they've potentially been exposed to lawsuits from the parents of either boy, or hopeless idealists (it's probably a little bit of both). The overly simplistic philosophy that "violence never solves anything" that is so common in schools is absurd on the face of it: violence obtained America's independence, ended the Nazi regime, stopped Saddam Hussein's butchery of the Iraqi people, ended the Fort Hood shooting, etc. And it the case of Casey Heynes, violence showed a bully that he can no longer abuse another person with impunity.

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