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Monday December 23, 2019 · 3:18 PM EST
By Jackson Hamilton
Bullying is a hot topic but it is too often treated as the monolith that it isn’t. There are multiple forms of bullying with different psychological roots. The type of bullying most common where I grew up in and around Charleston was the pseudo-ethical type where the bullying takes the form of vigilantism. It also incorporated significant ideological elements related to politics, culture war, and society. Brimming through every act of degradation I endured was the sentiment that I was an anti-American, socialistic, degenerate whose disability was a burden on society and I was a welfare queen for expecting social acceptance for it either for expecting people to be kind to me which was an undue burden on people who found me annoying or being a material welfare queen being an unproductive drain on resources.
Most psychological theories of bullying miss significant elements present in my case and the cases around me. The bullying was not stereotypical bullying and was instead vigilantism for claimed and/or perceived ethical failings of the victim. The bullies didn’t regard me as lame but as malicious, they were ethically superior citizens punishing an ethical inferior. My being a liberal in a conservative area and being autistic were bases of moral shaming and thus justified punishment of me in the form of what were sadistic and savage forms of bullying. When they were peeing on me, throwing rocks at me, or much more, they saw it as righteous vigilante punishment. There are five cognitive biases conditioned that justified it:
- Conformist Ethics- The idea that greater social deviance or deviance from what is perceived as mainstream or popular is less ethical and more conformity to those things are more ethical.
- Righteous Classism- The idea that those of higher status in financial, social, or other forms of capital are ethically superior because capital is a sign of work ethic and reflects and/or relates to character.
- Eugenic Malthusian Thinking- The idea that disabled, dispossessed, and otherwise disaffected classes and people are burdens on those of higher status and that this makes the higher status classes and people victims of the lower classes and people.
- Righteous Discipline- The idea that suffering builds character and that corporal punishment is appropriate to improve character and also that suffering is deserved by wrongdoers not as a deterrent but as justice.
- Authoritative Integration- The authorities share the above beliefs and take the side of the higher status classes and people as well as preferring them for the social reasons that the authorities, themselves, are integrated with and not above or impartial to the societies they oversee and rule.
The kids got their beliefs from their parents and their beliefs about the adolescent society they lived in equated to their political beliefs about their macro society. The exact same arguments their parents made about various subgroups of society were the same ones they made to me about why I was a bad person. The adults also believed the same stuff about the adolescent society that their children did and supported the popular kids more which is why they both did nothing to help the victims and gave the popular class enormous breaks in overlooking misconduct and bailing them out of problems.
The society I grew up in had many misplaced values but foremost among them were that the rich are ethically superior to the poor. There wasn’t much use for human kindness because it was believed that the weak and disaffected were ethically inferior and, in fact, the opposite approach was appropriate for them: punishment and cruelty. It tells us that we need to engender better values of love, kindness, and empathy in our children and that the conservatives of places like Mount Pleasant shouldn’t treat those values as the enemy values in a culture war.
* I want to add, having heard responses to the article, that the kindness I’m talking about engendering is not generic kindness, per se. Ask any of the conservative parents of the bullies and none of them would deny kindness is a virtue. Rather, it is ideological and largely subconscious. The point of the article was that these beliefs were subconscious social beliefs. Therefore, the solution is to teach them to have more empathetic views on oppressed classes. Also, to undo other cultural beliefs like suffering builds character. It is not about being personally nice to people, although that’s important, but that their worldview, including their subconscious, should be oriented and conditioned toward empathy and a gentleness.