The positive side of bullying

If there’s one thing that everyone seems to agree on, it’s that it is horribly, terribly wrong to bully homosexuals, where “bullying” doesn’t just mean “beating the crap out of”, but can also mean teasing, insulting, shunning, and the like.  Bullying itself is thought to be an evil thing no matter who it’s directed at (unless, of course, it’s directed at “fascists”, “homophobes”, “Islamophobes”, or other reactionaries who aren’t getting with the program fast enough).  This belief is false.  While cruelty is always wrong, some forms of bullying serve an important social function.  Ironically, it has fallen on me–who was once a small, socially awkward and deeply unpopular kid whose two great passions were physics and Star Trek–to defend it.

Every society rests on a vast concensus about meanings and roles.  We all agree on what various words mean, and that’s what allows us to communicate.  We all agree on what constitutes polite behavior, and so we know how to avoid giving offense.  We all agree to regard the dollar as valid currency, and so we are able to buy and sell.  Individualists always condemn conformity and concensus, but no decent human life could exist without it.

Concensus on social roles is crucial.  For example, there is an expectation that parents don’t have sex with their children.  This understanding ensures that physical affection between parents and children is properly understood.  Our understanding of sex comes from seeing it as something a husband and wife do that makes babies.   Sex does indeed have other meanings–it symbolize self-donation and unites husband and wife, making them a family, a one-flesh “we”–but only because the nature of the act is to embody this “we” into a new person requiring a mother and a father.  Take away the procreative telos, and the association of sex with love is arbitrary.

Someone who publicly defies social expectations is a menace to the social order.  If conterfeiters are too successful, money loses its value.  If incest gets a high profile, fathers will be afraid to hug their daughters.  If sodomites become publicly visible and accepted, sex loses its old baby-derived meanings.  Male friends or female friends avoid physical contact, afraid it will be taken “the wrong way”.  Out of politeness to lesbians, fathers are regarded as dispensible to the family.

This cannot be allowed to stand.  Against the deviants, society must reaffirm its concensus.  The individualist will ask “why?”  Why can’t individuals who disapprove of the deviants just express their private disaproval, and then live and let live?  Why must the community punish?  After all, no one is keeping the rest of them from conforming.  The reason is that it is general expectation and concensus, not just majority adherance, that allows social roles to function as they do.

Suppose there were a man, call him “Bob”, who lived in your neighborhood and worked in your office and who was an open adulterer.  He proudly tells people about all the women he’s cheated with.  None of your business, do you say?  Live and let live?  Suppose everyone at work and at home were to try this.  Everyone decides to act like Bob is absolutely okay.  This will come at a price.  Nobody can ever say or imply the moral truth that adultery is wrong without logically implying that Bob is wrong, and we can’t have that.  Commitment to marital fidelity becomes a proscribed thought, something two people can only whisper in secret.  In your effort to accomodate Bob, he has become the true master of the community and you the outsider, you the one “in the closet”.

What needs to be done?  The community must assert itself.  Somebody has to call Bob a two-timing bastard and then punch him in his goddamn face.  Then the universe will be once again set to rights.

Why to straight kids pick on queers?  Because public homosexuality threatens to rob them of the masculine and feminine roles that inform and dignify their lives.  Are they unnecessarily cruel and violent?  Often they are.  This is what always happens when private citizens take over a job that the government should be doing.  Vigilante justice is always more vicious than lawful justice.  When an adolescent boy decides he’s sexually “confused” and starts acting in a deviant way, it should be his parents and teachers that settle his confusion, telling him gently but firmly to stop acting like a fairy and be a real man.

23 Responses

  1. I sent the last paragraph of this post to Larry Auster, and he posted it. Good job, Bonald.

  2. Wow. Thanks for advertising me!

  3. AFAIK, “adultery” in the Bible means sexual relations between a married woman and a man who is not her husband. So in the example you give, “Bob” is not necessarily an adulterer.

    In my opinion, people get too bent out of shape about equality. If a husband pursues sexual relations outside of his marriage, it’s far less serious than if a wife does it.

  4. Hello sabril,

    “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.” (Mark 10:11) If your understanding is that Jesus meant only “another already-married wife” and “her” refers to this second wife, that would be an exegetical first. It is the unanamous testamony of the Christian tradition that for a man to have sexual relation with a woman other than his wife is adultery, a mortal sin that merits eternal damnation.

    You are correct that some of the effects of female adultery are more severe than for male adultery, in that the former but not the latter jeopardizes patrilineal inheritance. This is the reason that patrilineal societies (which include, I believe, every civilized people except ancient Egypt) take greater precautions to protect the chastity of their women. However, both forms of adultery obscure the significance of the marriage bond, both betray the symbolism of the conjugal act, and both are properly seen by wannabe-bullies like myself as menaces to the social order.

  5. I believe sabril is correct, and the technical term would be “fornication”.

  6. Interesting. What would be the correct word for sexual activity by the unmarried? Is that also, as I had always believed, fornication, or something else?

  7. Sabril wrote,
    “AFAIK, “adultery” in the Bible means sexual relations between a married woman and a man who is not her husband. So in the example you give, “Bob” is not necessarily an adulterer.”

    I don’t see why you think this. Any sexual relations between a married person (man or woman) and a person not their spouse constitutes adultery. If you are married, and you are having sex with someone other than your wife (or husband, if you’re a woman), then you have committed adultery. There is no debate about this in the church.

    Any sexual relations between two never-married persons constitutes fornication.

    According to the scripture quoted, Jesus introduced an additional definition of adultery which was any sexual relations between a currently or formerly married person and anyone else but their spouse also constitutes adultery.

    Bonard did not say, but I assumed from context that Bob is married, and therefore also an adulterer (otherwise, why call him a “two-timer”?)

  8. >>”Ironically, it has fallen on me–who was once a small, socially awkward and deeply unpopular kid whose two great passions were physics and Star Trek–to defend it.”<<

    Assuming you were bullied for these interests as well as being "small, socially awkward and deeply unpopular", do you look back and see your life having been enriched by being bullied?

  9. Dear MW,

    I got teased a bit, but never seriously bullied, so I can’t really speak to this issue. One weakness to this “vigilante enforcement” of social conformity is that it is never intelligently applied–kids pick on both those who affend the community’s moral consensus and those who are eccentric in harmless ways. On the other hand, recall that the point of this conformity pressure is not to enrich the life of the victim but to protect the community as a whole.

  10. Hello bartholemewcross,

    Thanks for agreeing with me. I was indeed assuming that Bob is married and employed the conventional definition of “adultery”.

  11. It’s also worth noting that “eccentric in harmless ways” presupposes a level of knowledge in the observer which is kind of breath-taking. How do we know, exactly, which eccentricities are harmless? I personally think that interests in Star Trek and physics are harmless, but do I know that with enough certainty to make me willing to embark on a campaign to stamp out all social pressure against geeks? No. Geeks conspicuously reject social norms. This is a dangerous thing to do in and of itself, at least in a reasonably functional society.

  12. Well Bill, if you have children now or in the future, I hope that they are not geeks. But if they are and they become targets of bullying, you can thank the bullies for trying to realign your geeky kids with social norms.

    Conversely, you could assist in the realignment of other childrens “harmless eccentricities” by encouraging your (non geeky, “alpha”) children to pick on those they felt were rejecting social norms.

  13. This is kind of like feminists claiming that they experienced success in convincing legislators to go along with their ideas because the legislators had daughters. The stupidity is just kind of mind-boggling.

  14. Hello Bill,

    Now that’s a fascinating point: can we be sure that seemingly harmless eccentricities really are so? To know that, you’d have to not only thoroughly understand the behavior, but also the culture that is offended by it. The very fact that some behavior is rubbing the community the wrong way must mean something. This is an especially important point to make when we hear that some other community finds a book or other work of art offensive that we find innocuous. Often, the tendency is to dismiss the other people as unreasonable. However, cultures differ, and it could be that something is harmful to them that isn’t harmful to us.

    On the other hand, in the case of geeks in school, the “community” in question is not the neighborhood or national culture, which conservatives will wish to defend, but the adolescent public school subculture. Conservatives are not obliged to defend subcultures, which as often as not are defined by rebellion or immorality. The very fact that adolescents have their own subculture cut off from adult guidance is a negative side effect of universal schooling and the absence of child labor. So, our response to bullying issues must be subtle. We must fight the liberal anti-bullying campaign, which wants to suppress any pressures to social conformity except its own. We should look for ways to switch the agents of social conformity from bullies to adults; ultimately, this can only be done by reintegrating children into the wider culture. We should distinguish acts that offend against a healthy culture (e.g. unchaste or unpatriotic behavior) from acts that offend against diseased subcultures (e.g. “being a prude”, “acting white”).

  15. Could you expand on this?

  16. Gayest thing I’ve ever read.

    “Bullying itself is thought to be an evil thing no matter who it’s directed at (unless, of course, it’s directed at “fascists”, “homophobes”, “Islamophobes”, or other reactionaries who aren’t getting with the program fast enough). ”

    “The fascists of the future will be called the anti-fascists” -Winston Churchill
    That said, we will never be overthrown by anarchists that seek only multicultural/unnatural sex and the ruin of society. You will all die, in short.

  17. Oh and by the way fag, Islam would do alot worse to you then the fascists would.

  18. Yeah, this part I didn’t really get. Was bonald just giving an example or were they implying that these groups didn’t have a valid point?

    Given past entries on Islam, I think it was just an example.

  19. Dear FYG,

    I appreciate your spirit, but I think you may have misread my intentions.

  20. Dear r,

    Thank you for reading my post and caring enough to ask for clarification. I thought it was clear that I was being sarcastic in that line. (You’ll notice I was talking about what is commonly believed, not stating my own beliefs.) Apparently, I wasn’t as clear as I thought I was, and for that I apologize.

  21. Hello MW,

    I’m sorry no one’s replied to you yet. I think you were asking Bill for clarification, but he seems to have left. I think his point was that assuming that having a daughter causes one to be a feminist begs the question of whether feminism is really beneficial to women in an integral sense, i.e. spiritually as well as materially. Also, it ignores the possibility that legislators may also have sons. If you were asking me to expand on my thoughts on cultures vs. subcultures or how to keep children from having their own subculture, I would be happy to do so. I think that merits a post in itself, though, so I’ll have to wait until I have time.

  22. I loved this! makes plenty of sense and you were pretty clear on sarcastic part; not sure how anyone didnt get that.

    could you be a little more definate on the actual positives of bullying, that kind of escaped me

  23. Thanks, Greg. The main point is that a community has a right to defend itself against its individuals by discouraging behavior that disrupts its cohesion, offends its sensibilities, and so forth. Bullying and gossip, though often done maliciously, do have a useful effect as a deterrent. Much better, of course, is to defend the social order by non-malicious actions such as fraternal correction and public censorship.

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