Michael Stuart Kelly

The Evolution of Bullying

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The Evolution of Bullying

by Meredith F. Small

Live Science

12 October 2007

Here is a rather pleasant little article that popped up on my daily Lew Rockwell email notice. From the article:

The darkest end of social interaction for teens, as well as adults, is the bully.

Bullies are kids, male and female, who intimidate other kids with words or physical harm. And no one likes a bully, not even the bully's sidekick.

Why then do some kids become bullies?

Adrieeen Nishina of the University of California, Davis, has a novel suggestion—evolution.

Apparently bullying might come from when humans were apes. From the bullies I have known, that sounds about right. Man evolved from the apes. The bully hears the call of his distant roots and tries to devolve back into one.

I find it interesting to observe the cyber-bullies, anonymous and otherwise, that have become part of the Internet discussion environment everywhere. So I think it might be fun to mull over the psychology of the bully. Evolution is as good a start as anywhere.

Cyber-apes, anyone?

Michael

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Apparently bullying might come from when humans were apes. From the bullies I have known, that sounds about right. Man evolved from the apes. The bully hears the call of his distant roots and tries to devolve back into one.

Man did not evolve from Apes. Modern Man and Modern Apes evolved from a common ancestor millyuns and millyuns of years ago. That latest branching in the evolutionary tree probably produced a later hominid and the chimpanzee/bonobo from a common ancestor. This, it is estimated occurred about five million years before present. Modern man (homo sapien sapien) appeared from prior hominids somewhere between a half million and a quarter million years before present according to the best available evidence. Read -The Ancestors Tale- by Richard Dawkins for the details.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob,

I used "ape" in the vernacular sense to mean all monkey-like primates because of a "spirit of the language" thing. In rhetorical terms, it just lacks a certain something to give it that extra punch when you say:

Apparently bullying might come from when humans were bonobos.

It kinda fizzles out.

Michael

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Yeah, don't be such a nit-picker :P I don't think Micheal intended this thread to be about the evolution of man. Undoubtedly, whatever we evolved from was animalistic, and so 'bullyish", which is what matters.

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I evolved from my Mom and Dad. They kept talking about "specis regression."

--Brant

You (individually) are not a species. It takes a species to evolve.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I evolved from my Mom and Dad. They kept talking about "specis regression."

--Brant

You (individually) are not a species. It takes a species to evolve.

Ba'al Chatzaf

And you are a literalist. :)

--Brant

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And you are a literalist. :)

--Brant

Bloody right and proud of it! A certain novelist of Russian birth once suggested that we take people at their word.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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To stay on topic:

I've read that hazing (which is a form of bullying) is performed among males as a test of combat readiness. If a guy can't take it, he can't be trusted to watch your back in a tight situation.

I, as a woman, find this logic incomprehensible.

Judith

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To stay on topic:

I've read that hazing (which is a form of bullying) is performed among males as a test of combat readiness. If a guy can't take it, he can't be trusted to watch your back in a tight situation.

I, as a woman, find this logic incomprehensible.

Judith

I, as a man, agree. :) Logic and combat readiness? Somewhat like military and intelligence?

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To stay on topic:

I've read that hazing (which is a form of bullying) is performed among males as a test of combat readiness. If a guy can't take it, he can't be trusted to watch your back in a tight situation.

I, as a woman, find this logic incomprehensible.

Judith

I, as a man, agree. :) Logic and combat readiness? Somewhat like military and intelligence?

Both have kept me from becoming a cake of soap on some Nazi's bathroom sink. I suggest that if it were not for both, you would be writing this in German or Japanese if you would be writing it at all.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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To stay on topic:

I've read that hazing (which is a form of bullying) is performed among males as a test of combat readiness. If a guy can't take it, he can't be trusted to watch your back in a tight situation.

Judith

This is not true. Either sentence.

--Brant

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To stay on topic:

I've read that hazing (which is a form of bullying) is performed among males as a test of combat readiness. If a guy can't take it, he can't be trusted to watch your back in a tight situation.

This is not true. Either sentence.

Care to elaborate? Since I've read about the theory, I've kept my eyes open and seen situations where it seemed to fit.

Judith

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To stay on topic:

I've read that hazing (which is a form of bullying) is performed among males as a test of combat readiness. If a guy can't take it, he can't be trusted to watch your back in a tight situation.

This is not true. Either sentence.

Care to elaborate? Since I've read about the theory, I've kept my eyes open and seen situations where it seemed to fit.

Judith

Hazing is group sanctioned bullying. There use to be a lot of it in Fraternities and the military academies, archetypically West Point. General MacArthur stopped the worst of it over 80 years ago. The idea is you are an outsider until bullied (hazed) then you are an insider and get to bully the to-be-initiated. In the U.S. military discipline and group training does this job. When hazing gets out of hand and into the news the brass step in to stop it. I have no doubt in many foreign armies extreme hazing goes on but it has nothing to do with combat readiness and having one's back protected. For instance, in the Soviet army hazing went so far as to include homosexual rape of newly drafted recruits.

In my three years in the army I never experienced hazing. True, I was not in a regular combat unit, but I underwent basic training and advanced individual light weapons training and jump school at Ft. Benning. In Special Forces I was with senior non-commissioned officers, all highly trained specialists.

Hazing simply means that the hazed is going to be looking for revenge. You don't want someone like that watching your back. Young, unmarried males with guns are the most dangerous creatures on the planet, aside from their political leaders.

--Brant

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Hazing simply means that the hazed is going to be looking for revenge. You don't want someone like that watching your back. Young, unmarried males with guns are the most dangerous creatures on the planet, aside from their political leaders.

In short, The Perfect Warrior. The entire Spartan militarist culture was built on hazing. Young Spartan boys were brutalized in the processe of being turned into Spartan Hoplites and they in turn bulled the young when they were older. They also bullied and savaged the Helots who fed them and they bullied their opponents on the field of battle.

If you want to turn out killing machines, the Bully Culture is just the way to do it.

I prefer Citizen Soldiers, myself, but the Spartans succeeded in their modality for nearly a thousand years.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Hazing is group sanctioned bullying. There use to be a lot of it in Fraternities and the military academies, archetypically West Point. General MacArthur stopped the worst of it over 80 years ago. The idea is you are an outsider until bullied (hazed) then you are an insider and get to bully the to-be-initiated. In the U.S. military discipline and group training does this job. When hazing gets out of hand and into the news the brass step in to stop it. I have no doubt in many foreign armies extreme hazing goes on but it has nothing to do with combat readiness and having one's back protected. For instance, in the Soviet army hazing went so far as to include homosexual rape of newly drafted recruits.

In my three years in the army I never experienced hazing. True, I was not in a regular combat unit, but I underwent basic training and advanced individual light weapons training and jump school at Ft. Benning. In Special Forces I was with senior non-commissioned officers, all highly trained specialists.

Hazing simply means that the hazed is going to be looking for revenge. You don't want someone like that watching your back. Young, unmarried males with guns are the most dangerous creatures on the planet, aside from their political leaders.

Perhaps the behavior I'm thinking of isn't as severe as what you're picturing. I'm not talking about homosexual rape here. But I have seen instances of men testing other men for weaknesses, and I"ve wondered if it were an example of what I'd heard about. Women, on the other hand, tend to support the weak links among themselves instead of weeding them out.

Judith

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Men are always testing each other, especially when young. This is too far off the subject.

Is it? Clearly I saw them as sufficiently related to confuse the two (i.e., bullying with "young male testing"). Wherein do you see the distinctions?

Judith

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Men are always testing each other, especially when young. This is too far off the subject.

Is it? Clearly I saw them as sufficiently related to confuse the two (i.e., bullying with "young male testing"). Wherein do you see the distinctions?

Judith

I think we're now talking about competitive behavior.

--Brant

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As I see it, bullying is the ultimate form of second-handedness. The bully does not attempt to prove that he's smarter than the object of his bullying, or more talented, or more able -- or even physically stronger. It may seem that he's out to prove his superior strength, but if that were truly so he would choose as his object someone of significant physical strength. This is not what he does; he chooses the weakest among those around him as the object of his bullying. He is demonstrating his power to humiliate and harm the defenseless, the weak, the helpless. If we object to the altruist who attempts to gain self-esteem by helping the weak and defenseless, how much lower is the man who attempts to gain self-esteem by hurting the weak and defenseless.

Barbara

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As I see it, bullying is the ultimate form of second-handedness. The bully does not attempt to prove that he's smarter than the object of his bullying, or more talented, or more able -- or even physically stronger. It may seem that he's out to prove his superior strength, but if that were truly so he would choose as his object someone of significant physical strength. This is not what he does; he chooses the weakest among those around him as the object of his bullying. He is demonstrating his power to humiliate and harm the defenseless, the weak, the helpless. If we object to the altruist who attempts to gain self-esteem by helping the weak and defenseless, how much lower is the man who attempts to gain self-esteem by hurting the weak and defenseless.

Barbara

Bullying is generally confined to teenagers in this country and has a lot to do with being in public schools which are denatured prisons--they are forced to be with each other. It is also true that they tend to hang out together in cliques and little gangs and that fosters bullying as a way to establish dominance in those groups. If the leader demonstrates this by picking on an outsider he is telling the others as I do to this guy I can do to you too, so kowtow. The worst bullying is found in prisons, of course. There is little or no bullying in college. If there were any it would invite immediate police intervention. If you're in high school, though, you can't get that because you are already in custody and aren't aware of your non-protected, non-protectable rights. If your child is being bullied in school get to the principal's office and raise hell.

--Brant

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An example of bullying suffusing an entire culture is that endured by Moslems. Force rules because of lack of separation of church and state and the lack of political philosophy that upholds the law.

--Brant

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As a victim of bullying when I was younger, I think I may be able to contribute to this topic.

A bully is someone that victimizes another person deliberately, maliciously and systematically. The bully must be the initiator of the victimization. So the question is why? What would make a human being do this?

First, I agree that a form of second-handing provides the core of the issue. Bullies invest massive resources into bullying so there has to be some psychological need that the bullying serves.

But although I agree with Barbara that bullying is motivated by second-handing, I disagree with Barbara's emphasis on 'picking on the weak.' I, as well as many bullying victims, are not just physically weak but intellectually strong. Smart people are the frequent targets of bullies. I would hypothesize that a physically weak person that was intellectually modest and average would not be bullied.

I basically agree with Rand that the issue is one of "second-hand thinkers" versus independent thinkers. Those that think for themselves versus those that accept the decree of the mob. See "The Comprachicos."

In the end, the bully is a true parasite. Getting pseudo self esteem by dominating others, to compensate for a lack of genuine self-esteem. This would explain why bullies are so driven to dominate and defeat others, because they have no other concept of greatness. They only see "the good" as "better than others." Their weapon against the 'weak' is "the cruelty of myself and my gang," which in other words means that the bullies think the hatred of other people is the worst thing that can be done.

Their parasitism is fundamentally mental. They cannot think for themselves and they resent those that do. Their psychology is totally dependent on others and they resent those whose psychology isn't. Their values are all social and they resent those whose values aren't.

In my estimate, bullies are humans living on the level of a wolf pack. They are both monstrous and pitiful creatures. I cannot consider them truly human.

My above analysis would also apply to hazing, although hazing could also be a vehicle for 'safe' exploration of some unresolved sexual issues, but thats a different point. The practice is fundamentally a product of a collectivist pack with the inability to think independently.

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I would hypothesize that a physically weak person that was intellectually modest and average would not be bullied.

Andrew,

This is not true from my experience in growing up around hillbillies when I was very young and, also, later having had a great deal of contact with inner city ghettos (in Brazil and USA). From what I have observed, some people just have an ornery streak and you never know when it is going to pop up or who it is going to pop up against. I do agree that smart people are often targets of bullies in a "nail that sticks up gets hammered down" kind of way.

I have observed that sometimes a person gets extremely envious of another and obsesses about him/her, but this is not limited to bullies.

Michael

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Andrew,

This is not true from my experience in growing up around hillbillies when I was very young and, also, later having had a great deal of contact with inner city ghettos (in Brazil and USA). From what I have observed, some people just have an ornery streak and you never know when it is going to pop up or who it is going to pop up against. I do agree that smart people are often targets of bullies in a "nail that sticks up gets hammered down" kind of way.

Fair enough. I should clarify that my theory (which is more or less Rand's, albiet without as much specifics in psycho-epistemology) explains my experiences in high school better than any other, especially since I actually tried to give them external conformity (i.e. act how they did, but not surrender my independent mine) and it did not work, so they obviously wanted something deeper. But I can see my theory does not explain all bullying, certainly given your experiences. Possibly the two kinds of bullying have different causes?

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