24 March 2022





Topic by Ines

Essay by Lawrence



We are all familiar with the meaning and experience of bullying. I will, therefore, won’t go into details about the constituents and various reported causes of bullying. Except that for language purposes, I will start by quickly distinguishing bullying from mobbing. By definition mobbing is bullying by a group on an individual, whereas bullying is a term usually used when a person bullies another person.


Whether the victim is bullied by a single person or a mob the effects are the same: from emotional distress to downright murder. Unfortunately, because bullying is a behavioural issue it tends to be the subject of psychological and medical analysis. I do not mean that these disciplines have no role to play in the very social and personal damage bullying causes, but rather an analytical analysis of the problem is the starting point to deal with bullying.


My main explanation for bullying is very simple: bullies pick on others because bullies are physically stronger than their victim. And we can expand physically stronger to include authority and power (eg Boss-Employee relationship). By definition a victim of a bully is one who cannot or doesn’t feel they can protect themselves or even retaliate in an act of self defence.


Hence my position is that bullying has nothing to do with mental disorder of the bully, or the upbringing of the bully, or any other sort of circumstantial background. The fact that a bully can make rational judgement such as, this is a weak person (ie the victim) so I can be aggressive to them with little or no consequences demonstrates that a bully knows the basics of right or wrong. Risk calculation is a rational mental event and, therefore, capable of understanding right or wrong. Of course choosing right from wrong does not mean that we always choose the correct solution.


Consider this sentence (Psychology Today) on the question “Why People Bully”: “People bully because it can be an effective way of getting what they want, at least in the short term, and because they lack the social skills to do so without harming others” (Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/bullying). The author of the article also mentions bullying as a means of “establishing social dominance”.


Getting what we want covers a lot of sins. Is emotional gratification something a bully wants in the playground when bullying junior members at school? And what does the boss want when they bully an employee for no reason at all? Once again I don’t think people or children will go from “I want X so I will get it by bullying the person who has it or can give it to me.” I would argue that the thinking process would start with incremental levels of bullying: when children are involved it starts with an insult here, a push there: taking a shoe or a book from a fellow student to taunt them.


Earlier I said that if a bully can access the risk of their action then they have, at least, an appreciation of good or bad. But we are also mentally lazy creatures; we, and especially bullies, depend most of the time on inductive reasoning to act one way or another. A bully might think something like, I got away with that little mischief yesterday, let me see what I can get away with today.  


As for social skills, bullies do not lack social skills, they lack an environment where bullying does not pay. And more importantly bullies do not find themselves in an environment where it pays to follow the rules or as was said “social skills”. Children are very active and curious people and the educational system does not always help stimulate all individuals equally. Irrespective of the progress made in teaching theory, education either on the savannah plains in Africa or the top 10 universities, the child (adult) have to adapt themselves to the educational system and not the educational system adapting to the individual.  Even the Bologna process of the EU does not necessarily create the right environment for all individual.


Oppressing or controlling subordinates is part of the evolutionary process of group formation: primates and chimps do it etc. Challenging authority is also part of the evolutionary process: a bully in the playground is not only being aggressive towards a weak victim but also challenging the authority and power of the institution. Irrespective of how aggressive a bully is, there must always be an environment for them to excel and achieve recognition without thinking about bullying as a substitute. In the playground, exams are a means of humiliating a large part of the school population. The answer is not to pass everyone for the dozen exams students take, but to offer subjects that even bullies would rather work on those subjects than bully people.


How would bullying affect in the playground if people could pass exams on football, tennis, cooking, dancing, acting, and other subjects that requires personal effort rather than being told what is or what to do, but rather how to do things and achieve goals?


Best Lawrence


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