Tuesday, 22 March 2011

on becoming a hero

a victim fights back and becomes a hero. it's not hard to understand why. i think many of understand what it's like to be picked on, to feel helpless and harassed. or we've been in situations where we've not had the power to stand up to peole who have treated us unfairly, who have put us in a position of fear.

maybe it's that more primal instinct of fight or flight, and when flight isn't a possibility, we love the ones who fight back. is it our collective hatred of wimps, of any sign of weakness? so that when we come across someone who does fight back, we express our contempt of weakness by applauding the fighter.

the latter seems to me to be a stronger possibility, especially given the adjectives used to describe physical weakness or emotional cowardice. most of which seem to be aligned to feminine characteristics, funnily enough, while courage is described as having balls or being a man. [as an aside, i'll just express here how much i hate it when the new nz masterchef judge who keeps using the word "ballsy", even to women. seriously, is it that hard to accept the fact that you can have courage without having balls?]

the reason these questions come to mind is because the applauding of this young hero who has been able to physically fight back puts that much more pressure on those people who aren't able to fight back, for whatever reason. by making him a hero, we say that those who don't fight back are the opposite.

it's an insidious way of making the victim responsible for preventing bullying, and another example of a society that is unable to put responsbility squarely where it belongs: primarily, those who bully. but also those who applaud the bullying though not taking part themselves, those who watch silently but do nothing (unless, of course, they fear for their own safety), those who run institutions where bullying takes place and who cultivate an environment that encourages a lack of empathy, or at the very least haven't set up adequate structures to protect people from bullying. if our young hero was being bullied for three years, as is stated in the article, then surely the school is doing something wrong.

on top of all that, responsibility lies with a society that prizes the fighter and has contempt for the weak.

*thanx to the person who started an excellent facebook discussion which influenced my thinking on this: you know who you are


David said...

You start by saying "A bully fights back..." Surely that should be "A victim fight back ..."?

Watching that video was hard for me as it brought back memories of my 2nd & 3rd form years. Every week I'd get hit, smacked or even beaten up. When I told my 3rd form teacher about it I got an even bigger hiding for narking.

Fortunately things changed by the time I was in the 4th form I was bigger and had the confidence to hit back... I only needed to do it twice, at the start of the year. I was never bullied again at school.

34 years later I still remember spending every lunch time hiding in the libary and no one wanting to be friends with me in case they got picked on as well.

stargazer said...

oops, you are absolutely right david, and i have changed the post.

thank you for sharing your story - unfortunately it is much too common, and the lack of support from your teacher especially sad. i know these events never do go away, memories we'd rather not have but can't avoid.

Anonymous said...

When I read this post, and in particular David's comment, I thought that it had been reported as a "bully fights back" in the mainstream media as well.

And yes, David, this David shares your pain. I was picked on through most of my school years. I felt it was destroying me at the time, but looking back now, I think it made me who I am today. In that regard, I feel it was worth it.

I had a best friend at high school, and I could never figure out why. He was a good looking kid, would have been popular, but he was mates with me. I'll never forget what that meant to me.

Mysig said...

Fighting back is a hell of a lot better than the kids killing themselves due to bullying, that's for sure.

stargazer said...

those aren't the only 2 options mysig. also, you ignore the high risk of serious injury which fighting back poses, as well as the fact that some people aren't physically big enough to fight back, or can't fight back for some other reason. in fact you missed the whole point of the post.

Mysig said...

Sorry, but I never posited those as the sole options; I simply expressed that fighting back is preferable to suicide.
You go ahead and explore the other option though :-)

stargazer said...

except it isn't better if you end up dead in an attempt to fight back. and yes, that happens. so if you have a point, it's incredibly hard to see what it is.

Mysig said...

Statistically, you're far more likely to end up dead from attempting suicide than you are from sticking up for yourself.
So, no.

stargazer said...

? statistically, those in a dangerous bullying situation don't fight back, so you don't know what might have happened if they did. again, failing to get your point.

Psycho Milt said...

by making him a hero, we say that those who don't fight back are the opposite.

In the same way that by putting someone on the honours list, we say that everyone else sucks? Or that by awarding a soldier a medal for bravery, the military says all the other soldiers are cowards? That statement is just plain wrong.

if our young hero was being bullied for three years, as is stated in the article, then surely the school is doing something wrong.

On that at least we agree. No doubt the principal can wave untold policies about and spout an excellent line in "zero tolerance" bullshit, but the fact remains a year 10 kid in the school was bullied for years to such an extent that a puny, rat-faced year 7 kid felt able to just walk up and punch him in the face. That says more about the school's performance than the principal ever could.

stargazer said...

um PM, we are making a judgement about those who didn't get the medal or the honour ie they didn't deserve one or are not as good as the ones who did. isn't that the reason for awards?

which is the point i'm making - the implication of lauding this person is to say that the ones who didn't respond in this way aren't as good as our hero.

Mysig said...

Well, at least you're consistent in your failure, Stargazer :-/

stargazer said...

it may possibly be because you don't have an actual point, other than "suicide is bad". which is not particularly helpful, sorry.

Mysig said...

You know what's not helpful? Ruining your own post with pointless bickering.

stargazer said...

excuse me? i could say it takes two to actually have this "pointless bickering" you speak of, so if you would just shut up, there wouldn't be any. but instead, i'll say to you tht you can't expect to amke a comment hee without getting a response, and that kind of silencing technique is a pretty weak one and doesn't work here.

in fact, i may even decide you're right about the thread being ruined, and delete any further comments from you so that it's not ruined further. when you have any kind of useful contribution to make, feel free. otherwise, it's best that you don't further waste your time or mine.

Gravey said...

Bugger it - I drafted a comprehensive comment and it crapped out when I tried to submit.

If it were a choice between fighting back and suicide, then fighting back certainly seems the better option. But it ain't that simple. And yes - you don't know what the outcome will be, so the comparison isn't particularly helpful.

I know there have been countless times when I would rather have just died on the spot than have to deal with being bullied or trying to fight back (believing I was too useless or weak to do so). To me, suicide would have been preferable to fighting back. So instead I just took it and did neither.

Hell, I even got sent to the headmaster's office at intermediate - getting in trouble for being picked on too much and not standing up for myself. Go figure.

Like others, what worries me about the "hero" thing is that it might encourage others to stand up for themselves, but it might also make others feel worse because they believe they can't. I was definitely in the latter category.

An example of a happy (well, not so happy) middle ground is a tale I have told before. When at High School we were kicking a ball around when the chief bully said something nasty to me, and I blurted out "Fuck off [name]". He said "Come here and say that". So I did. Up to his face. As I turned to walk away he said it again. So I walked up to him and said it again. As I turned to walk away, he punched and caught the bony forehead so it didn't physically hurt. I turned back, stared at him before slowly turning and walking away.

When I was out of sight I bawled my eyes out from the emotional pain, but was still really proud of myself. I never really had a problem after that.

As a society, we need to do the same thing we do with all social engineering. Make bullying "uncool" and making the bullied who go and get help and have the bullies "dealt to" through proper channels a cool thing.

Deborah said...

That's a powerful story, Gravey. Thank you for sharing it.