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+5 votes
There's been a lot of focus and discussion on the topic of bullying in schools, most often this revolves around the treatment of minority youth groups such as LGBTQ, non-whites, non-Christians, etc. Unarguably, this causes a lot of emotional and occasionally physical damage. How would an anarchist propose going about and trying to solve this problem, from the perspectives of a victim, friend of victim, friend of bully, parent of victim, parent of bully, teacher, etc.?
My other point with this is that many anarchists see public humiliation and physical violence as alternative methods to police/incarceration for dealing with "problematic" people (for lack of a better word at the moment). Do these count as bullying? How does that relate to school yard bullying?
This might be a bit vague, but I hope to clarify with some of the answers and questions you all might offer.
by (1.2k points)
Not too long ago I encountered a description of a method of instruction for the value of humility among peoples who inhabit the Kalahari desert as hunter-gatherers. Young men (and possibly women) who are sent out to hunt for the first time are obligated to return in such a fashion that they qualify their deed as a failure, regardless of whether they were actually successful in acquiring food. The lesson being that in spite of their strength and skill, and the people's reliance on them, the hunters shouldn't get any funny ideas about abusing others with that authority.

I feel this would be indicative of the type of instructive or even disciplinary practices anarchists would find valuable. It should also be said that I can't really verify the factual integrity of that little anecdote, but even if I'm making it up it still seems interesting.
I was considering a similar question, but since you brought it up, probably better to bundle it.

I've been wondering what @s think about the new anti-bullying movement. Bullying has been around since before any of today's teachers, school admins, parents, etc. were even born, so why is it only in the last few years that it has become a mass conversation? I was thinking perhaps a critical mass of basic human respect for queers and sissies has built up (too optimistic? note: self-identified sissy, here; term not used as pejorative). This is too simple to be a wholly correct answer, but it seems like a plausible contributing factor. One obvious element here is the role of the internet and "smart" phones. In some of the widely publicized cases lately, these technologies quickly dispersed fatally embarrassing pictures/ information.

As for this movement itself: is it actually effective in reducing bullying? Can a coherent anti-bullying movement exist if it doesn't recognize that society itself is built on intimidation, violence and sadism? Is the anti-bullying movement potentially receptive to anti-authoritarian analysis?

2 Answers

+4 votes
I think the best solution would be to Attack.
by (1.1k points)
+1 vote
I want primarily to address the line between public humiliation and physical violence versus bullying as it exists today.  How to deal with the situation from the various perspectives you ask about would vary based on circumstance and the various relationships involved, among other factors. I also apologize if I veer at all in to social services-speak, sometimes that happens on subjects like this with me.

Part of what makes Broner’s answer appealing is that it addresses head on that there won’t be some perfect world where no violence and no coercion ever take place. To some degree those things have always been and (so far as I realistically believe at least) always will be a part of human relations. Most anarchists I know seek to minimize the extent to which that is the case, and view the destruction of our society (with its power imbalances, rigid hierarchical relationships, institutionalized violence, and domination) as a good starting point for that. Therefore there is a need to attack, and to some degree there always will be a need to attack.

Specifically looking at bullying behavior, I think it is helpful to start out by looking at what bullying is. I would personally define bullying as the focused and on-going domination of an individual or a group by another individual or group through the use or threats of violence, harassment, or teasing. I would differentiate this from things like partner or child abuse or individual instances of conflict between a groups or individuals. The intention (among possible others) of bullying is to create a sense of powerlessness and isolation. Bullying could happen on the playground, it could also happen in the workplace, neighborhood, probably even the local occupation.

Given this definition, the sort of violence and shaming sometimes advocated by anarchists is distinct from bullying in that it is not about exerting power-over. In this case, bullying is more closely related to the role of police, the boss, and so forth. What gets really tricky is that in some cases those actions do look a lot like bullying – when a group is bullying an individual (hell, even if an individual is bullying an individual) it is often related to the person being bullied not fitting within a set of ideals for behavior, appearance, identity. In this case, anarchistic violence relating to dealing with behavior that violates socially agreed upon norms within a group could look a whole lot like bullying. The difference would be about degree and duration as well as whether this was an attempt to use domination to create a sense of powerlessness and isolation. I don’t think it would always be easy to draw hard and fast lines about that. In addition, if the idea of free association is taken in to account, the person being shamed, etc. is welcome to freely associate themselves with others who share their values.

My last thought about bullying as it relates to anarchy/ists: Like abusers, bullies often operate from a place of recreating either behavior that was modeled to them as the acceptable and normative, and/or domination meted to them at some point. In plain-speak, they have seen dominating behavior acted out, quite possibly on them, and are therefore acting in the ways they know. It seems quite possible (this is speculation though) that in social groups where domination and power imbalances were not the norm and were looked at as aberrations and disapprovingly, far less people would end up acting in ways that would fall in the definition of bullying I am using, though I don't believe it would ever eliminate it entirely.

I feel like this answer opens the door to a lot of questions, as well as criticisms of it. I hardly think it is perfect, and am interested to explore those further.
by (22.1k points)
edited by
edited a couple times for punctuation and clarity. Probably will happen again if I actually re-read this.