Bullies Big and Small

No one likes a bully. They are trying to cover up their insecurities at the expense of others.

When I first started writing, I made it a point to read NY Times, the Wall Street Journal and the like. Why? I wanted to post comments to get my name better known. My comments were thoughtful and polite — and carried my name. The responses were vicious and essentially nameless. It was, as one pundit said, a cyber version of the bathroom wall. Yes, they followed the netiquette of not SCREAMING at me, but they ignored common courtesy in the epithets they hurled at me.There was no civil discourse. They were bullies. Why? Because they could be — they were anonymous.

Are there really so many horrid people out there? Or is this anonymous aggression a healthy outlet, preventing them from road rage or pushing pregnant 92-year-old nuns down the stairs?

We know from animal studies that overcrowding breeds aggression, and that’s certainly seen on our crowded streets and highways. Road rage can be lethal. Pedestrians in crowds are defensive of their personal space, to the point that they become offensive about it.

But it is more than that. In hard economic times, people are afraid someone will get their goodies. They tend to be grouchier.

Mentally challenged kids aren’t picked on by the bright kids, they are picked on by the students just above them in IQ. They do it to make themselves feel better, to put distance between them and the child with an IQ 2 points lower.

I also look at some mommy blogs and am amazed at the tone of some moms. “If someone asked my child to please be quiet in a movie, I’d slap them silly.” And we wonder where bullies come from?

Then there is belligerent ignorance. This started in the inner city as a combination of inadequate education and “attitude.” “I don’t know and I don’t care that I don’t know” makes ignorance — and failure — a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pugnacious stupidity is a sure recipe for disaster in your life.

If you don’t know something, find out! If you can’t get a decent education in your rotten school, go to a library and log onto Khan Academy. It’s free, as are MOOCs: Massive Open Online Classes. Maybe when you learn something, you won’t feel so insecure. Then you won’t go around with ‘tude, whether on the web or on the street.

I’m not sure how civility died, whether Twitter didn’t have room for it, or text messaging doesn’t need ‘pls” and “thx.” But I need “please and thank you.” I need to let people in in traffic. I need to not interrupt people. I need not to call people names for their outrageous (to me) political views, even if I can do it anonymously.

Why? Because civility makes ME a better person. And after all, I’m the only person I can change. If someone else wants to be a jackass, I’m not going to help him.

Besides, he’s probably packin’.