The other side of bullying: People are assholes. Everyone.

So, there’s this new movie about bullies called “Bully” (not to be confused with the unexplainably watchable Larry Clark movie of the same name). While I haven’t seen the movie i did watch this preview recently and it got me thinking.

Bullies are assholes. No shit. They are cowardly people doing cowardly things , usually stemming from insecurity and their own personal issues. Looking at that unfortunate, questionably deformed, nerd kid in the movie trailer is pretty depressing. He seems like a nice enough kid and ,really , his only crime is looking how he looks. He’s an Uber-nerd simply because he looks like one. While classic 80’s movie nerd giveaways (such as genuinely embracing school work and having interests that don’t include sports and girls) may apply to him, we don’t really know that for sure. All we know is that he’s funny looking. And in this age of hyper-political correctness, where being smart is no longer frowned upon like it once was, the ugly , weird kid is still and will always be a prime target. No matter how much we strive to be our own people when we’re young, there is an invisible line between a quirky, off center kid and an outcast nerd, ripe for abuse.

When I was in high school, I was never one for bullying. In fact, I would usually go out of my way to be nice to those kids cause the people picking on them tended to be total dicks. I always gave those types the benefit of the doubt, as people. They were obviously living in hell and the last thing they needed was another person pushing them around. That said, while I was friendly, it’s not like I was gonna hang out with them and forge friendships. My whole idea was to just not add to the problem. Basically, I was thinking “if this person snaps, I’d like him to not wanna kill me first”. During my 11th grade year, I made a startling discovery that would forever alter the way I look at kids who get bullied. It turns out, people are people. And from the most popular kid to the lowest member of the high school social caste system, assholes are everywhere. Who knew?

There was this one kid in one of my math classes named Svi (the name alone put a bullseye on his back). Svi was a genius. He was in 6th grade but was taking 11th grade math (which was annoyingly easy for him). He was obese, had glasses, he smelled kinda weird, had a shrill high voice and when he spoke, you could hear the phlegm swirling in the back of his throat. He was like a short, pale, white frog who was amazing at math. Straight up, he was gross. Not surprisingly, he got relentlessly picked on. He’d get spit balls hurled at him, he’d get his pants pulled down in the locker room, he’d get pushed into the girls bathroom. Typical asshole bully shit.
Sitting in class , watching all that go down, I felt bad. Granted, he did things that garnered negative attention like throw tantrums in class over mathematic arguments or smugly correct kids when they didn’t know the answers. But, it still didn’t make his abuse okay to me. So, one day, I decided to just chat with him. sort of a low maintenance olive branch. Understandably, he was a little on the defensive. All he knew was that people wanted to fuck with him so he was perfectly justified to be apprehensive.
Once he realized I wasn’t a threat , he relaxed a little and things went smoothly.
About 5 or so minutes into the conversation I realized something. Svi was , in fact, an ego maniacal asshole. He was dismissive, contrarian , extremely condescending and completely full of himself. That guy I saw in class was not only real but it was toned down.
I was kinda shocked. Here I was expecting a nice, misunderstood kid but it turns out that he’s exactly the kind of person I didn’t like. I thought maybe it was just a defense mechanism but, as we spoke a few more times I realized that’s just how he was. He was an asshole.
After that, I remained cordial to him but I definitely felt a little less remorse when kids would pick on him. Sure, they were doing it for all the wrong reasons, but fuck that kid. While he didn’t deserve that treatment, he didn’t NOT deserve it either. Regardless, he left the next year and I’m sure he’s a millionaire now so, well, the jokes on us!

Anyway, later that year in school, there was another kid , Michael, who got harassed a lot. In his case, he was this fem drama kid. While people didn’t just come out and say it, it’s obvious the abuse was coming at him cause people thought he was gay. I didn’t go to a particularly intolerant school but there’s always a few jerkoff kids that are gonna take issue with that kinda thing. He and I had a class together but never spoke much, mostly due to him kinda keeping to himself and me not really giving a shit. The bullying he received was different than the kind Svi got. He didn’t get physically pushed around as much as he just got berated all the time. However, I always gave him credit as he seemed unphased by it all. He’d just roll his eyes, flip his hair and keep it moving (the hair flip certainly didn’t help his cause).

Much like Svi, I one day happened into a casual conversation with him and , within minutes, realized he was a pompous dickhead. It was more than a lack of social grace, he was simply unlikeable. I remember walking away from the conversation and things started clicking. Perhaps some people who got bullied kinda had it coming on some level? Like in a karmic sense. What he was getting picked on for was completely unjustifiable, but he was a prick outside of that so maybe , in a roundabout way, it all made sense. Obviously, picking on defenseless people for reasons they have no control over is never okay. But, in the case of both these people, they were legit assholes. I realize I wasn’t the judge and jury of this kinda thing but maybe they had no friends for a reason. Not cause they were social outcasts, but because they were just really unsavory people. Part of the bullying just came as a result of that friendless life , when seen by others in a social setting. Unless you carried a switchblade ,had a mohawk and seemed dangerous, “loner” types never had much of chance, socially, in high school.

Since then, I’ve come across countless situations similar to this where someone I once felt bad for proved themselves to be just as insipid as the people bullying them. Sure, in different ways, but once you’re an adult, all that evens out. It’s rare that an adult bullies another adult. Instead we’re left with self righteous people with a chip on their shoulder and passive aggressiveness. I’m convinced the population of Williamsburg is like 50% these types.

My point in all this is not to say that the people getting bullied have it coming. Of course not. However, I also think it’s unfair to immediately think that just cause someone is getting bullied, that they are automatically great people to be pitied unconditionally. Plenty of assholes get bullied. Plenty of downright despicable people have been harassed. Does it make bullying okay? Not at all. But I just feel like it should be noted that not every nerdy looking kid has a heart of gold. The same way not every stripper is a money grubbing piece of shit. There are always exceptions to every rule. That doesn’t make the bullying okay…but it can add some perspective beyond the typical “Big bad kid beats up little smart kid” way of looking at it. I feel like, in the end, very few people are ever totally innocent. And, on the bright side, people who bully tend to age poorly. I’m pretty sure all the kids I went to high school who used to pick on kids are now miserable and wishing it was still 1994 again.

Also, i’d like to add that bullying has been around forever. It’s led to everything from high school shootings to brilliant nerds making billions of dollars out of spite for the people who tortured them as youths. It will never go away. As long as there are kids who feel the need to prove themselves by picking on easy targets, there will be easy targets to get picked on. It’s just kinda how things go. It’s just too bad that there are so many avenues to take with bullying now that didn’t exist even when I was a teen. I’d much rather get thrown in a locker then aired out on facebook or twitter. That’s for sure.

12 thoughts on “The other side of bullying: People are assholes. Everyone.

  1. I was picked on a lot, and a lot of what happend to me was because I was different (race, religion, ugly, fat) but I was also really annoying. The annoying part came later though, after years of being an outcast and being picked on. I also knew other kids that were picked on, and sometimes we did bring it on themselves. For me, I felt like everyone would hate me eventually, and since no one liked me I would be annoying just to bring out the worst in people and get it over with. It was stupid, but not much made sense to me back then. A movie that analyzes the mentality of the bullied would be far more interesting and helpful to stop bullying than whatever that trailer is for.

    • It’s interesting that , sometimes, the emotions and insecurities that cause some to be bullied also are the same reason people bully others. It’s like everyone is lashing out against each other. But I suppose that’s a big part of growing up. In the end, everyone’s a mess on some level , they just express it differently.

      That said, being bullied over race, sexual orientation or physical appearance is always fucked up on any level.

  2. I was bullied a lot from late elementary through high school, and I’ve turned out to be a pretty socially well-adjusted adult and I have a decent amount of close friends.

    That said, I agree with a lot of what you are saying. A lot of the other kids who were bullied at my school were huge assholes and kind of rough to try to interact with (which I had to try to do a lot in the name of solidarity with other bullied kids). I’m not sure if those unpleasant kids became unpleasant as a result of being bullied or if they were targets because they were unpleasant already.

    Also, in terms of people getting bullied being assholes, I definitely treated some kids who were even lower on the social scale than me like shit just because they were people who weren’t able to bully me. Junior high and high school just brings out the shittiest in people I think.

    My senior year of high school I ended up smoking a lot of pot and falling in with a bunch of nerdy burnouts and the bullying cut down a lot because I had friends who weren’t just hanging around me in order to have easy access to someone they could treat like shit. Pretty much all of the other nerdy burnouts and I all turned out pretty well, but I can’t say the same for most of the people who bullied me or some of the unpleasent people who got bullied alongside me. Either way, I’ve made amends with a few of my peripheral bullies (fuck the few guys who were fucking with me every day though) and most of the kids I was shitty to.

    Good post overall though. I’m still unsure of whether or not I want to see that movie. It seems like it’s going to be a good documentary, but since I know what that shit was like firsthand I don’t think I want to throw down money to see it in theaters. Plus it seems like it’s going to be a huge bummer and I don’t know if I want to use what little spare cash I have for a day ruiner of a movie.

  3. hah! In the beginning of my freshman year some kid tried bullying me and after like a week of tolerating it I punched him and broke his glasses. As time passed, he turned out to be one of my best friends in high school.

  4. I always found the best way out of getting bullied to own the shit that you are being picked on for. People would call me gay and I would be like “yes, and I got your note about meeting behind the school tonight, and I am SO down for that”. Motherfuckers have no idea to counter something when you flip it back onto them in some clever way. Problem is most people are too afraid to own it for fear it will only intensify the harassment.. My friends and I used to be the first to run into the shower at gym like “yaaaayyyy!!!”. Nothing freaks a jock out more than being what they accuse you of. Funny thing is that girls pick up on that shit and when they start seeing what you are doing, only good thing can happen. Girls love confidence, even it is playing softball with your shirt tied like a girl…

    • +1 The whole act is give and take, and when you don’t give the desired reaction the bullying is ineffective. I used to bully my sister because she was daddy’s angel and never got in trouble, but she would egg it on by purposefully getting me in trouble. Speaking of eggs, the below poster is right, it’s a chicken-egg thing. Either one of us could have broken the cycle. I could have been not a dick, then maybe she would have felt bad for snitching on me all the time. Her defense mechanism was my trigger.

      In high school I got picked on but never bullied, but I always took it in stride and like the above poster, usually made a joke about it. Some of those people ended up being my friends, others moved on to more satisfying targets.

      Bully-targets that are different are usually so because of a disdain for societal norms. Because of this rebellious nature, there are conformist enforcers who test them. My point is that if you’re going to be rebellious, you need to be able to back it up. Which leads to the point Block makes, that by being rebellious not by creative-choice but by nature of snobbishness, you propagate yourself as a mark. Nature’s way of keeping assholes in check. Not 100% of cases, but for the most part. My 2 cents.

  5. The run-of-the-mill average kid/person (aka 99% of the population) is a total follower. They wear the same jeans and are terrified to color outside of the lines. Props to any kid who does their own thing and accepts whatever flack they’ll take for it..

  6. It’s not true what the article said about “adults rarely bully adults” In what universe is that true? Bullies come in all ages, shapes, and sizes. In some walks of life, the physical harassment and immature teasing continue, in other walks of life, it takes a different form (trying directly or indirectly to control others in neighborhood, work, and family settings). And you better believe that domestic violence, child abuse, and fight starting are not that much different from bullying. They are forms of bullying. And harassment on one adult to another is not in the least uncommon. Workplace bullying and harassment is anything but rare.

    Bullying is always messed up. And liking or not liking the target, or our subjective view as to whether or not the target is a nice person, is meaningless and has nothing to do with how vehemently we should oppose the bullying. Bullying may not go away, but doing everything we can think of to help targets and make bullies miserable enough to find thier own actions not worth the effot, and change themselves, is essential. Bullies must be robbed of the feeling of triumph or dominance they achieve. They should be referred to counseling and required to attend as surely as the targets are (how humliating for the targets, to have the stigma of being referred to counseling while the evil of bullying is excused away by some teachers as “human nature.” Never, ever use human nature as an excuse for bad behavior, is the lesson in that. And never act like the targets or victims are sicker than the perpetrators, as they are not. If the targets seem like jerks, at least they have a better and more visible excuse than “human nature”

    Myself, I was more ostracized than bullied when young. I was thin and pretty, but very smart and had my own opinions, not very good at sports, and refused to follow marching orders from popular kids. All, very, very frowned upon, especially in an ignorant small town.

    • “Myself, I was more ostracized than bullied when young. I was thin and pretty, but very smart and had my own opinions”
      You, my friend, are a trailblazer. Congrats on making it out of high school in one piece. Being thin, pretty and smart must have been brutal.

  7. Welcome to modern world, a pile of junk put together. Old valors that preach hard work, integrity, dignity and self-respect are fading quickly, Assholes new generation are taking over old ethics and smashing them into ground…your best friend may betray just for about anything, there is none you can truly trust other than, in some cases not even this, your parents…this world won’t have a pretty end

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