A lot has been said about how authorities coddle Gen Z and Millennials and how this generation has not learned how to tolerate the mildest forms of being offended and being made uncomfortable. I would agree, in part, but the issue is not so much that the adults taught them that they were special and that their pain was meaningful, it was that they reinforced the narrative their cognitive biases composed that every time they felt wronged that it was not only true but the offending party was the melodramatic villain of their personal story and never taught them to try to understand or forgive the other side or consider another perspective. They were taught that they were always right and no matter the severity of the crime or lack thereof that their victimizer was a monster undeserving of sympathy or forgiveness.
The helicopter moms, as they are known, did not settle for just getting their children good grades and into the best social clubs but sunk so far as to insist that that their child was never in the wrong. At which point, they slip into postmodernism and begin to mess with objective reality but that’s a rabbit hole I’m not diving into here. Suffice to say, not only must their child be a princess but also an angel.
Ironically, this system makes bullying worse because among the more common forms of bullying, and the most common form I was subjected to, was having my social blindness exploited to amuse and entertain neurotypicals as a “circus monkey” and after it was over, for the most part, my former bullies never apologized but rather kept insisting that they thought I was popular and talented and that’s why they wanted me to preform for them. It’s what I call “dog whistle” bullying and so long as no one said “retard” or committed an obviously physically degrading act then the bullies have plausible deniability. In a setting where people always must be right then they will take plausible deniability whenever they can and that way leaves no hope for atonement or closure.
However, mostly, people don’t seek atonement or reconciliation. Of everybody in the gay-straight alliance I was a member of, I am the only member who I believe sought peace and love with my opponents while the others wanted segregation from them. They saw their opponents as monsters while I saw them as pricks and brats. They wanted their bullies to “leave them alone” while I wanted a truce, a hug, and a handshake. They wanted to work with the administrators to enact punitive anti-bullying policies and I wanted a social struggle without recourse to state power and coersion and I was enough of a civil libertarian that I truly and passionately hated and despised the idea of using the police and the threat of incarceration to scare and overpower a bunch of punk-ass kids.
That’s why I entitled this piece “The Politics of Restraining Order” because that’s what the anti-bullying movement entailed. The victims wanted segregation, lifelong segregation, mind you, since these peple never intended to ever makeup with their erstwhile opponents. They also didn’t see them as opponents but lived in an echo chamber where they saw them as monsters, the adults reinforced this idea, and they never reflected on what might have been their own flaws because those never arose and their support network was unwilling to admit that such flaws existed.
Of course, their opponents were doing the same thing and have crafted a narrative that they are angels, did nothing wrong, and that their opponents were in the wrong. Being on the spectrum, when I was overtly bullied, it was usually with an ethical pretext. When I was urinated on and had rocks thrown at me, the people who did that had an ethical pretext and stylized themselves as upright vigilantes. I’ve made social mistakes and if we live live in a world where such misdermeanors become felonies, it’s unsurprising that vigilantes might feel justified or, at least, use a justification to punish me. In the end, the world of sophistic sanctimony and hyperbole does not make for a kinder or more loving world. If normal people become villified for minor trangressions and can never be forgiven or reconcile with their former opponents, it doesn’t even make us safer. The adults need to cease teaching their children that their children are paragons of virtue and that whomever hurts their feelings is the antithesis of one. When a minor transgression occurs, the adults need to atttempt to facilitate an apology by the offending party and amicable terms to leave the meeting with. Not to warn the offending party to stay away from their supposed victim as if transgression were a sexual assault or violent robbery. Something tantamount to a wedgie or a prank just isn’t worth a restraining order or a lifelong grudge, it’s possibly worth a detention, a two-week grounding, and a handwritten apology letter. Six months later, the entire case should be closed and all hard feelings should be gone.
If we live in a world where our opponents are monsters and we are angels then we have created the narrative of authoritarians the world over. That is the way that one group’s faws are overemphasized and another’s are overlooked. If peolpe cannot break bread with people after what should be minor disputes than one imagines that they could never end the emotions after a war or sectarian conflict and are prone to accept the othering of any particular group. Not forgiving or engaging with one’s opponents is not only wrong but it leads to darkness and dystopia.