Who’s the bully here?

2013-07-23 cyberbullying laws

I was watching Ezra on 2013-07-18 talking about a proposed  Cyberbullying law in Manitoba. It was an excellent, fiery presentation pointing out all the ridiculous shortcomings of the proposed law. He even confronted the sponsor of the bill whose line of defense was something along the lines of: “Don’t worry about the fuzziness. Just trust us. Lawyers and politicians are all decent people and we are going to do right thing. Nobody will abuse this law. Scouts’ honor.”
As I was watching this elected politician, I had to ask, who is the real bully in this setup? How did we get here?

As I was growing up, I do not remember bullying ever being a real problem. Why? Because there were no fuzzy nowhere lands of catering to everyone’s feelings. No phony self-esteem protection. We all knew exactly what we were worth relative to the guy next to us. We were measured, rated and ranked all the time. I was the best gymnast, Szovik was the best at math and Havas studied the hardest. The basis of your status had to be some sort of achievement, some sort of ability. The would be bully also knew his place in the established social order of the group and he also knew that not only the teachers will get on his case; he will have the contempt of the whole class as well.

Bullying is just a primitive attempt to establish social status by those who are not able to establish it through other means.

In North America, it seems to be a growing problem these days, but I think bullying is not the problem, it is just a symptom of bigger problems, and ‘treating’ the symptom will only make those bigger problems worse.

Bullying is also a social problem, not an educational one, but the underlying causes of its prevalence are in the school system where most of the socialization of our children takes place.

The students

A world that scoffs at social ranking is inviting bullying. Without legitimate ways of social ranking, there is not much else left to establish status.
Where everybody wins, everybody is a loser and it is an insult to the intelligence of our children to think that they cannot see that. If there are no rules, no established mechanisms to clearly establish social ranking, if you hinder our children’s ability to establish self-worth and self-esteem, they will find other ways to get it.
Understanding the world we live in should mean understanding our own culture and its values first. Then we should learn us much as we can about other cultures and compare them to ours. Only through understanding can we develop true tolerance. What we have instead is ignorance based relativism and nihilism, neither of which would qualify as a cultural value. It seems that we are afraid to teach cultural values because the very word ‘value’ implies the possibility of ranking.

We are making it more and more difficult for children to learn positive values as we are, from a dangerously early age, aggressively pushing onto them notions of cultural, moral and even biological relativism.
Bullying in our schools is getting progressively worse because our children are lost in this confusing world relativism.

The catering to our students’ ‘feelings’; the ideological pretension of ‘equality’ understood as sameness; the cultural relativism and multi-culti nihilism all create a vacuum where alternative ways to establish social status can flourish. Bullying is just one of them.

The teachers

The dynamics of schools are changing. The centre of interactions used to be between the schools and their teachers vs. the students and their parents. From there we evolved into a world where the dynamics of education is between teachers and their unions and school boards and their administrators, their regular and predictable conflicts arbitrated by politicians.

Students and their parents figure less and less into this picture as they no longer have any real influence at all.

In this new world of politicized interest the teachers are doing less socializing, less discretionary decision making and more enforcement of rules made by the other power players (Unions, school boards and politicians)

Bullying exists because we are discouraging teachers from dealing with it.
Bullying exists because the Marxist philosophy behind labour unions created a confrontational environment where the interests of the parents, students, teachers and the school administration (Schoolboard/government) are made to be antagonistic. Bullying exists because our whole educational system is overly politicised and in the end politics IS bullying.
Labour union bullying works for the teachers and it is an insult to the intelligence of our children to assume that they cannot see that bullying works.

As decision making in education is getting more and more centralized, our schools are turning from institutions of civil society into instruments of the ideology driven bureaucratic decision making.
What this law represents is another step in the systematic dismantling of civil society replacing its functions by state controlled, political bureaucracies.

The politicians

The laws are not the expression of the collective will; the LAWS ARE NOT and cannot be the expression of the values of a society. Laws are the formal expression of the state’s power over its citizens.
You cannot legislate tolerance; you cannot make people nice by laws. The only things laws can ‘achieve’ are obedience and compliance.

We are trying to handle an ever more nuanced society with ever more blunt instruments wielded by powers further and further away from civil society using ever fuzzier definitions of what is and what is not allowed.
If we remove society and the individual from the equation, all we are left with is naked political power. Power that is unpredictable, capricious, very often vicious and even more often unjust.

When the state starts tinkering with the workings of society, it sets it on a path of slow destruction. When seeing the problem, the state can only think of one possible solution: giving more power to itself, supressing the ability of civil society even further.

The effect of this law would be exactly to opposite of its stated aim, it will inevitably create more hostility, more friction, less understanding as it removes the last bits of intimate discretion, the last bits of power that some teachers were still willing to use.

The ULTIMATE bully in this story is Kelvin Goertzen, the politician who wants to legislate feelings.

The solution

The solution could be about as simple as it is unrealistic as long such politicians are around.

An unconditional voucher system would be an improvement. Every school would have the power to set its own code of conduct, and appropriate sanctions for those violating it. Every one of them could evaluate what is more important to them, the revenue that any student is bringing to them or the cost of the trouble they may cause. Teachers would not have to respond to union thugs or government bureaucracies, only to the parents, their peers and their principals.

I KNOW that the solution I envision is not very likely to become reality but I still think that we should talk about it. If a country as committed to Socialism as Sweden is can do it, we should be at least able to talk about it.

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