The Family Bully & Trump

For some people the drive to dominate and control is so important that their life becomes a full time preoccupation with bullying. This sickness, a dominance drive, is so awkward that it manifests in some strange ways.

I know of a man who began worshiping money at an early age. He gave his nephews each a golden ring on their 16th birthday. He found this rewarding and even gave his older brothers a similar ring too. This act of, well, let’s not call it generosity because no recipient believed that is what it was, let’s just say, ‘gift giving’ was more about him than the recipients. The act of giving a gift of such value to only the male offspring of his siblings harkens to an antiquated value system. One of male dominance and loyalty to an ideal based in a presumed family heritage. It is also a way of taking ownership while creating an expectation of allegiance.

J. R. R. Tolkien fans may already have already drawn the parallel to The Lord Of The Rings, but that takes it a little bit too far. These rings were given with no explanation. He started his own tradition that only he could explain. He never provided an answer as to why he did this. At one point he chose a favorite young nephew to manipulate using money and favors as carrot and stick; he began molding his favorite’s future with demands, and rewards, and punished by withholding promises when his wishes for the child were not granted. His favorite rebelled, so he chose another more compliant nephew to focus on.

All the while he celebrated the family name and gave gifts with emblems of an ancient family with the same name supposing, never proving, a connection between the two. It was a Catholic bit of heraldry not his own Protestant heritage. As giver of the rings and user of the supposed family seal he expected loyalty and respect. But, he wasn’t a warm or friendly person. His allegiance was to the ideals he valued, not the people in the family. He’d replace wedding pictures of his relatives with copies of the family seal because he liked the frame. His metaphoric message was that the Catholic logo, an idealized concept of identity, was more important than the real Protestant people in the family.

The true family history was of mere hard-working farmers scratching the earth for sustenance, but his fantasy standards became the expectation for the whole family. He rewarded those who shared his ideals and ignored those who did not. He grew accustomed to the carrot and stick manipulations and used them in work and at home. He became a powerful member of his profession until a malign secret from his economic dealings was revealed. It was his downfall, but his bullying days were not over. The imagined fantasy of his identity continued to guide his behavior until he died.

This was not the Death Of A Salesman decline of a poor sucker with false ideals of success, this was the Success of a Bully at least until close to his death. His social climbing, money grubbing, manipulating strategies worked for him in business, but mostly failed him with family. His downfall came when a long-abandoned family property, through inheritance, came to be shared by the bully, the new favored nephew, and one of the nephews that had been deemed unworthy. This unworthy nephew chose to resist the bully uncle. He got fed up with having been bullied since infancy. He changed the rules the bully imposed, he studied the strategies of his and other bullies, he made strategic use of non-traditional and unexpected absurdity, he made himself vulnerable and persisted even to his own detriment. He brought to light the economic malfeasance that destroyed the bully’s reputation. It was a heavy price he paid to defend his own integrity.

Now some may observe that physical violence was not part of this bully’s repertoire, so what’s the big deal? The greatest representation of bullying ever to appear in literature is the character Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello. The stage is littered with bodies at the end of the play, all as a direct result of Iago’s actions. The bully’s behavior caused those deaths, his attitude, his harmful nature, his desire for control, his entitlement, his choice to manipulate, his strategic interference in other’s lives caused damage. The fact that no one was physically harmed in this example does not negate the damage done.

The whole world is seeing the ill effects of a bully by watching Trump’s misbehaviors. He becomes a role model for family bullies like the one above. He excuses their behaviors and illustrates better strategies. He sets new low standards and destroys moral codes. A bully relative could create even more fantasy-based damage and declare a more-false heritage. He wouldn’t be bound by the normal constraints of common decency and would abuse his economic authority even more. Bullies are already a devastating challenge for the family, now a greater evil is challenging family integrity with even lower moral standards. It’s hard to be hopeful under this sort of leadership.

Of Shame and Embarrassment

Have you no shame?

Shame on you for suggesting that!

Take the walk of shame down the hall of shame.

I can’t, I am beyond shame.

What a shame — you’re naked;

cover your shame!

But, I have no shame.

Well, it is a bit small, but nothing to be ashamed of.

Adam and Eve left the garden, ashamed.

Ain’t that a shame?

A low-down dirty shame!

The strong-arm enforcer of our own psychological behavior is “shame.” It is a great tool of conscience to protect our own standards of virtue. We may be prewired for it, but the specifics of shame are learned from our home life and society. Those rules become deeply embedded within our core.

Embarrassment is the emotional reaction when someone has, or is seen as having broken a convention of their group or society such as walking into a room with a fly zipper down. It’s intimately tied to shame and guilt but not as profound: toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Shame is internalized. It is the emotion of knowing yourself to be flawed. It is personal. Those who feel shame know that they are bad. An embarrassing moment passes by. Shame lives within.

I know of a person who is a master of preemptive shame. He tends to speak in ‘lectures’ when he wants someone to know what the rules are. His lectures are structured to include an experience of preemptive shame so that the listener will truly feel the shame of the violation during the lecture. He means to instruct the listener thoroughly by using this technique, so he wants the lesson to be experiential. As children his offspring would walk away from one of these lectures feeling guilty for something they hadn’t ever done nor considered doing. The extra gut-punch of preemptive shaming was effective, I mean his lesson was learned, but it also had an effect that wasn’t beneficial. Shame lives within, so the build-up of unearned and undeserved shame became psychologically problematic. The repeated implication of fault at an emotional level of this magnitude destroys self confidence regardless of its cautionary intent.

Guilt is the product of shame. If you violate the laws of a group or society you must pay the penalty.  If the violation is small the punishment is embarrassment alone. When the severity of the offense grows, guilt is added to embarrassment. Additional shame is required to produce that guilt. It’s a simple progression. Problems arise when people start thinking for themselves instead of following the existing rules.  Rational thought often invalidates older codes and the chimera of theology. Rational thought voids shame as a mechanism for conformity and control.

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself” is the older person’s cry to the young “offender.” If the response is “Why?” there had better be a good reason. Rational thought is the foundation of social rebellion. The emotionalism of both racism and civil rights were put into rational context by Martin Luther King Jr’s 1963  Letter from Birmingham Jail. He was publicly shamed by the police, but it was five white religious leaders who tried to shame him with a letter published in the local paper. He turned around in the adverse discomfort of a jail cell and rationally and emotionally tore down their bigotry and made the rational case for action. It provided an extraordinary moment of clarity in a charged environment of conflicting values. His document is now a standard text for college freshmen across the country. All because he stood up and said this is why you can’t shame me. He gave reasons. Among the multitude of lessons available from his letter is the assertion that reason can be a tool to defeat irrational shame and guilt.

So when does sex become shameful? Religions have always made it so, but to the enlightened rational mind, where should the line be drawn?  Well, child rape by Priests or other adults is obviously on the bad side. Any rape for that matter, or perhaps we could say unwanted, harmful or involuntary sex is wrong. Incest that leads to psychological problems, or genetically mutated offspring is wrong. There is some concern for keeping sexual relations out of public view.  That just about covers it.

Those who would support only conventional sex may use ‘possibilities’ as a rational argument against the full range of sexual expression such as, possibly, acquiring a disease, or getting pregnant, or some other unintended consequence. That risk is as fundamental a risk as can be found in any other activity, depending upon its form, so the “possibility” argument is not persuasive. When the religious argument is used the debate shifts away from rationality making it irrelevant. Moral standards of the society on the topic of sex tend to be based in religion not rationality. All that is left is the ‘ick’ factor: ‘it doesn’t feel right,’ ‘that’s just icky,’ ‘I would never even think of doing that!’ Some may wish to keep their children ignorant of sexual variety. The non-participating public’s icky feelings are not a rationally persuasive argument. There is no rational argument outside the question of harm against any sexual expression. So, why be ashamed?

When I came out of the closet to my parents I preemptively eliminated the possibility of them shaming me. I spent several years coming up with a strategy that used personal confidence and absolute surety. I’d read most of the limited available literature in 1979 and anticipated their response. They had no knowledge of what being gay means, so they argued from their built-in prejudice with its theological underpinnings.  By eliminating the option of shame from their arsenal of argument it was easier to show them their own ignorance of the topic. This was the healthiest way for me to share my identity with them.

Shame is the glue that binds moral societies together. Unfortunately, it becomes a useful tool for adult bullies. They thrive on destroying reputations. They often remain anonymous while manipulating others to achieve their goals. Adult bullies are usually smart and enjoy playing out strategies that undermine a person’s credibility. They choose their targets capriciously. They manipulate the target’s need to avoid shame. Adult bullies are patient and covert, their strategy plays out over time. If reputation weren’t such a valued part of identity, and shame so devastating, especially in the workplace, the bully’s play toys would disappear.

I don’t mean to imply my parents are bullies by saying this, but by removing the potency of shame when I came out to them I removed their ability to use the bullying tactics inherent in the manipulation of shame to “fix” me for being gay. There is no easy mechanism to fight an adult bully. They are secretive and plotting and evil in their intent. In the workplace 70% of targets leave their job. Only 10% of bullies are found out and fewer are punished. Fighting a bully demands that you lower yourself to their moral level (assuming you can discover who they are). This action alone is devastating to reputation. You end up using the bully’s tactics to fight; that is humiliating. The bully has the advantage of being psychologically driven to do harm while the target is forced into uncharacteristic and abusive behaviors for their own defense. They become a bully to fight the bully, but there is never a winner. The choice to compete in this battle itself destroys reputations.

Ain’t that a low-down dirty shame?

Dual-Fact Nation Part 2

Adam & Eve have no lower bodies and conveniently draped hair.

Dismediation is a new word for me I found it in a Religion Dispatches Newsletter article by Christopher Douglas. I should have mentioned the article in my last post since I divided the whole topic into two posts . Dismediation is a process using a medium to tear down that very same medium. So, if you use the TV news to complain about TV news coverage you are dissing the media covering you which academic folks label dismediation. It is a rhetorical technique similar to the one where you begin your speech by saying you are not going to talk about a particular topic; which you have obviously just done by mentioning the topic. “I refuse to discuss my opponent’s vile policies on strawberry flavored toothpaste, I will, however discuss the joys of mint toothpaste which I support wholeheartedly.”

Dismediation is not like those cartoons where the bridge falls apart piece by piece just as the last wheel of the caboose passes by. The bridge must remain an essential carrier. It’s more like complaining about the medium of news for doing what the speaker relies upon it to do, report the message. Trump constantly portrays the news media as being liars thereby discrediting the medium he needs to get his message out. He expects the bridge to remain available after his caboose has passed by so he can use and abuse it repeatedly. The news becomes a straw man that can be attacked repeatedly while whittling away at its viability. If you can convince enough people that the tracks are unsafe then fewer people will travel on the tracks ultimately destroying the effectiveness of the railway system.

The goal of “fake news” and “alternative facts” goes beyond providing different data. Their purpose is actually to destroy the notion that there could be impartial news and objective facts. Maria Bustillos calls this endgame “dismediation,” “a form of propaganda that seeks to undermine the medium by which it travels.”

The people most vulnerable to this rhetorical trap happen to be Fundamental Christians. They have been conditioned to do so by a lifetime process of indoctrination. It begins with an attitude of dislike for the elite, know-it-all, educated class that comes from family influences as well as social interaction with fundamentalist churches. Here, they learn of the inerrancy of the Bible, a blind obedience to its teachings and dis-trust of those who don’t share the same belief. There was little infrastructure to support this back in the late seventies when the fundamentalist evangelicals began their forays into politics through one particular luminary, Anita Bryant and her anti-gay campaign to Save the Family. Anita was not afraid to call gay folks names. Pick any, or all, of these descriptive terms found in The Anita Bryant Story:

Evil, sinners, perverted, an abomination, those with vile affections, reprobate minds, unnatural, deviant, flaunting, afflicted, regrettable, sad, tragic, apart, distorted, abominable, effeminate, ashamed, reproof, abhorrent, disgusting, licentious, lacking legal or moral restraint, marked by disregard of the rules.

If you want a complete list you will have to dig up her book because all this came from just one small part of one short chapter.I had to stop writing them down, it was too stressful.

Anita Bryant capitalized on her orange-juice spokeswoman fame and wrote several “Christian” books. She became both the beacon of her movement and its lightning rod. Jerry Falwell joined her and it became a launch point for truthiness and faux-scholarship of the bigoted religious. You see, she wrote a best selling book. A BOOK. If its in a book its got to be true! If it quotes the Bible a lot then its even more true. So, a whole slew of other anti-gay people started quoting her books as a credible source. They learned about footnotes and endnotes and citations and all those other image-enhancing rip-offs of credible writing. That lead to other bigot’s books quoting this “highly credible” authority (she wrote books you know); one who uses language that would make the Ku Klux Klan folks blush. Once this body of scholar-less-ship dismediation came to pass, evangelicals and fundamentalists started to realize there’s gold in them there books. If the Bible is quoted enough, then academic scholarship is not required. They would, of course reference one another’s work and soon there was a whole library of this stuff. In Christian schools a homogenization process of real and faux scholarship, religious ideology, and the Creation Museum hoopla all merged into “alt-reality” as we call it today.

Christian fundamentalist Bible colleges and universities, publishers and bookstores, newspapers and magazines, radio and then television shows, museums and campus ministries, together formed a set of institutions that resisted elite, secular expert knowledge. Recognizing the power of expertise’s infrastructure, Christian fundamentalists created this counter-infrastructure to cultivate and curate its alternative forms of knowledge. This alternative knowledge—the forerunner of today’s alternative facts— took the form of creationism and an alternative Bible scholarship demonstrating the Bible’s inerrancy and traditional authorship.

I’ve watched the Anita effect influence society in negative ways. Once, I took my students from the Gay Student Club I helped create at Bloomsburg University back in the ‘80s to hear a highly publicized Campus Crusade for Christ anti-gay speaker. We had a stake in this game but were naive as to the effect it would have on all of us. The speaker used a new rhetorical trick to enhance his credibility; it was the unkindest cut of all. He knew his audience would already be on his side, but just to foil the opposition, us, he made a big deal about how all his facts were well supported by references and documentation. He had a three-page list of those references available for all to see if we needed proof. His speech was as evil as Anita’s book and included all sorts of “studies” proving his points. We asked to see his references at the end, but he had unfortunately (read conveniently) left them at home while on his speaking tour. Was there credence to what he said in the speech? Well, it didn’t matter since it had already been given.  There was nothing he could prove and nothing we could do but disagree. We didn’t bring our list of actual studies and scholarship either so nothing we said would have convinced the audience who came with preconceived opinions at the start. It was despicable and cowardly and dishonest and oh-so-typical of the alt-mindset theology: “a lie for God’s side is not a sin.”

Feeling Daffy Duck-ish

The animator’s pencil comes into the frame, eraser first, as it starts to remove the black and yellow duck known as Daffy from the screen. The duck continues a conversation with the unseen animator complaining about being erased. It’s a surreal, existentialist cartoon from Warner Brothers that plays with the conventions of the dramatic art of cartooning.

To enjoy a cartoon, you, the audience, must first accept the illusion of reality as presented in the animator’s product. Once you realize the conventions of the illusion: bright colors, stylized scenery, animation, funny voices, sound effects etc. you can choose to go along with it or not. The natural inclination is to disbelieve things that are so blatantly artificial, so you must temporarily suspend your disbelief to give the artist the opportunity to present his art. Duck Amuck, pokes fun at the cartoonist’s own rules through a number of techniques calling into question what reality is, and other existential dilemmas. The image of a god-like pencil and unseen power controlling it could be frightening in another circumstance.

I’m feeling a little Daffy Duck-ish today, speaking of other circumstances. The omni-twitter-present power controlling our government’s pencil is erasing me. After fighting my whole lifetime for the opportunity to be recognized in society and especially by the government, Trump is erasing me from the picture. I know it’s not personal, he is erasing a whole category of which I am apart. I am old, gay, disabled, and I have no children. This category of individual is being erased from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP). The love that dare not speak its name from my youth is being told to shut up again. Well, not exactly told so much as the questions about us have disappeared from the questionnaire. We won’t statistically exist any longer. Poof, gone!

We know it is a planned effort on the part of the administration for a number of reasons:

  1. They are doing the same thing on the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living which evaluates services that help people with disabilities to live independently. No statistics specific to the gay population will be collected this time.
  2. They lied about the changes made in the surveys. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) oversees the surveys.  They give a new reason for the dismissal of questions while contradictory statements about these issues remain on their own website. They describe the current questionnaire as not being any different from the last one.
  3. “An anonymous administration official confirmed to the AP that the agency targeted LGBT questions in the surveys” according to Zach Ford’s post in Think Progress yesterday.
  4. The LGBT rights web page disappeared from the WhiteHouse site on Trump’s inauguration day.
  5. A HUD survey on LGBT homeless was dropped completely. No data there!
  6. And of course, all the pull back on transgender issues in education and in North Carolina.
  7. This is a continuation of the homogenization of our culture. I have mentioned it before. No attempts to recognize diversity are being made. We are all the same – worker bees. Our distinctive characteristics are diminished while our commonality is reinforced.  There is no point in recognizing any sub-group because Trump, really doesn’t want any identity to define Americans other than American. Ignore the “Special Interest” to remove its power as a sub-group. He spelled this out in his inaugural address.

Those of us of a certain age are quite familiar with a closet. We know it when we see it. This is the database version of the closet. If there is nothing to find in the database then it doesn’t exist. If the questions aren’t asked in the research then there is no data to report. When there is no search information to find, the query provides no answer, so a default answer is applied. Our society is so reliant upon searchable data that even our religious institutions have trouble relating to the humanity of their belief system. Take, for example, the Pope’s recent Apostolic Exhortation on love, it is designed to fit into a database. Lawyers must have written it given the legalistic nature of statements defining the rules of Catholic love. It is a forceful anti-LGBT document dressed up in the flowery language of condescension.

There are clear edges on each rule starting with the first sentence. “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” This says what they mean it to say, but further explanation of the fine points is necessary. It’s a declaration that the church and the family are inseparable, making love impossible without the church and its database of rules. There can be no love in a family unless it follows the rules in his book. My reaction to this is one of eww yuck – I don’t want the church in bed with me. I envision a creepy priest peeking under the covers of each bed while the family is asleep.  The Exhortation is a long list of rules that fit in the database and become absolute criteria for love to exist. I was never a Catholic, but once I had read this manual for love I was appalled at the audacity of those pompous men in robes for demanding this from human beings. I’ve never read anything so pretentiously cruel. You see, a database has no way to turn emotion into data. The church disregards, denies or ignores the feelings of the humans it overlords.

Trump is formulating his own exhortation on being a subject under his rule. His first criteria is that every commoner will be regarded in the same way unless they are rich. Money is the deciding factor in whether distinctiveness shall be noticed. Are the rules for belonging to Mara Lago that different in their exclusivity than the Pope’s Exhortation? In the Pope’s realm the excluded masses go to hell; in Trump’s realm the excluded masses become the homogenous 99% citizens of America. The only distinction that matters has already been made. No need to gather the data of distinction.

So, the end of Duck Amuck reveals the unseen hand of God controlling the eraser to be Bugs Bunny. Who knew Bugs, the Pope and Trump have so much in common? The final line in the cartoon is Bugs’: “Ain’t I a stinker?” The answer is three times yes.

Thats all folks!trio

Still willing to suspend your disbelief?

 

Where are the adults?

Remember back in school when the teacher lefty the room for a few moments and all hell broke loose? The girls started talking, the bullies started picking on the nerds and guys would start telling dirty jokes. I was the nerd in that scenario. I really didn’t want to get in trouble so I was probably the only kid there hoping the teacher would come back right away.

I’ve been re-living that same sensation during the whole presidential campaign. When is an adult going to come and restore order? The teacher has been gone so long now that the bully is in charge, the guys are acting out their dirty jokes and the girls have made one another cry so often that they’ve started doing it all over again.

Seriously, the adult has to come back and tell the bully that working with the Russians is bad, then make him sit in the corner until he gets it. Tell him to stop lying. Use the dictionary. Be polite to guests, immigrants and German Chancellors. Stop killing the poor, young, sick, old and disabled by taking away their health care and polluting the environment. Don’t start any wars or threaten nuclear nations with leaders wackier than you are. Finally, take him off Twitter.

Allegiance (Homogenized) and Diversity Stew

stewThe theme of homogenization is present in much of what I talk about in this blog because the president keeps doing it. If Trump weren’t trying to erase the identifying qualities of individuals it would not be an issue. His acceptance speech did nothing to identify any sub-group in the stew we call The United States of America. He simply doesn’t acknowledge the meat, potatoes, vegetables and seasonings in our bowl which provide unique contributions to the flavor of stew. He makes no effort to describe the difference between a bay leaf and a seared cube of beef. In his rhetoric we are interchangeable ingredients.

An effort is being made in this administration to avoid identifying one group over another unless he dislikes them. That’s why Jews were left out of the Holocaust Memorial statement, but the Muslims are banned by name. Identity groups are either an anonymous part of the stew who won’t get mentioned, or they are the named enemy who is vilified with disrespect and lies.That’s sort of a backhanded compliment to Jews in an odd way – inclusion in the group of the anonymous whole. Except that by ignoring the diversity of subsets in society they are homogenized into sameness. sheep20dogThe bullying behavior of the hate groups reinforces the drive toward conformity like sheepdogs steering the herd. They will knock over as many tombstones as necessary to keep the herd together. Trump said in his acceptance speech:

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

It seems as though he wants to put the stew through the food processor and make it grey-brown mush. He believes the flavor will still be there, but he doesn’t realize that humans want to taste, in each bite, the different flavors of beef, onion or carrot; that’s what defines a stew.  This reminds me of the Chinese grey-green uniforms with the red star on the caps. All groups are the same group; it sounds Orwellian. Ignore diversity to achieve homogeneity. Vibrant hues will be desaturated with the grayness of conformity.

porridge-President Obama enjoyed mentioning and discussing the nique characteristics of many diverse identity groups. In contrast, Trump has been forced to mention, at the top of his Address to Congress, the recent anti-Jewish violence, but he also felt the need to toss in a mention of Black History Month and a shooting in Kansas. He can be pressured into naming
a component identity group when necessary as long as it is accompanied by other groups to make them all the same. The less distinction the better, though, as he said in the address:

“while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

There can be unity through diversity or unity through conformity.  Trump prefers conformity. The red baseball hats are a symbol of conformity. He began his dictatorship with all white followers, all christian, evangelicals, and all undereducated. He is now including in his admixture the rest of us by erasing uniqueness and encouraging sameness. He will make us bland and compliant. Allegiance is the foundation of authoritarian regimes. Total allegiance is Totalitarian.

Bureaucracy, the Lesser Bully

Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gates and asked Mr. ronald-reagan-brandenburg-gate-west-berlin-june-12-1987-pictureGorbachev to “Tear down this wall”. It was an act of bravery. The risk he took was less than it may have seemed. The Soviet Union was ripe for collapse. A key bit of evidence for this was found in the products made by this cumbersome bureaucracy. A tractor was worth more in raw materials than it was fresh off the assembly line. There was no motivation for quality control in the massive State Committee for Planning’s centralized control system due to a lack of competition and overwhelming bureaucratic inertia. At the time I was predicting the same thing would happen here in the United States, except that it may take longer.

Bureaucracy – the structural processes of organizational operations – becomes entrenched and grows into mammoth entities with an insatiable need to expand. For example, when I started teaching in 1982, Universities employed mostly professors along with minimal administrative support. Now, professors are almost an afterthought to the management bureaucracies that have taken over. The priorities have ballooned to include satisfying the ‘customer experience’ and ‘job training,’ all of which can be done by staff or adjunct professors to lower the cost of running the school’s ever-growing bureaucracy. Students and faculty alike are intimidated by the intractability of the systemic bully.

When I think of a new start to a clogged up, non-functional system, I’d start with the goal first. What is this system meant to do? Then I’d look at what it actually is doing, then I’d start digging to find the obvious clog points, identify them and collect my observations. I’d study what I have found and then research the ways the same thing is being done elsewhere. A plan would be created for addressing the goals. I wouldn’t destroy the old system until the new plan is ready. The solution could call for anything, from a small patch job to total reconstruction, but destruction first and ask questions later is foolish.

Trump has brought in bulldozers to deconstruct the ‘administrative state’ as Bannon said at CPAC. Cabinet heads were chosen to dismantle the government bureaucracy. We have yet to learn how it will happen in each area but given the haphazard behavior of Trump, I doubt they will do due diligence first. There is no attempt at hand to make things better, at least no one is talking about ‘improvement,’ they talk about ‘change.’ They talk about elimination of burdensome regulations and compliance checks. They talk about privatization and freedom for business. They talk about making it the ‘best’ without defining best. Remember Trump promised us: “the ‘best’ people will be in my cabinet” and look who we got.

greedI can see how people whose singular concern is making money would prefer the anarchy of the Robber Baron era, where each person fends for themselves.  Why not disregard the safety and security of the worker and her health and his family, and their ability to breathe and drink clean water and endure radical weather changes? The Trumpian moral god is me-first GREED. Humanity is what they exploit and consume to make money; it’s a necessary inconvenience on the path to wealth and dominance by the 1%.

Now, I hate the bully, bureaucracy, but the government’s is a necessary inconvenience I happily choose over being consumed by rich people. It is my preferred bully. It’s not perfect, but it is not meant to be malicious. A component element of greed is the damage it does to other humans. Greed is purposefully malicious.

ADF = Bully

 

Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost

my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of

myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation,

Iago, my reputation! 

Act 2 scene 3 of Othello has one of the more devastating moments to be found in any of Shakespeare’s plays. Iago intentionally gets Cassio drunk and embarrasses him in front of the boss. The character of Cassio is the epitome of goodness and virtue, and Iago is the most evil dramatic character ever created; the ultimate bully who revels in Cassio’s angst seen in those lines above.

Things to keep in mind about bullies:

They are smart.

They use strategies based upon circumstance.

They attack your reputation, knowing that you will protect it.

They almost always win.

To fight back you must accept the fact your reputation has already taken a hit, so put that reality to use. The bully is relying upon you to protect your reputation. You can beat the bully by removing reputation as the foundation of their strategy.

“You see what power is – holding someone else’s fear in your hand and showing it to them.”

-Amy Tan, from The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991)

If you fear the destruction of your reputation then the bully can keep you right where he wants you. Get rid of that fear and the bully no longer has power over you. A reputation is ephemeral, it ebbs and flows, it can be rebuilt when it is damaged. It is based in what other people think and you can’t control that. But you can control what you think about yourself.

The best way to get rid of the fear of damage to your reputation is to “know thyself.” Confidence in who and what you are allows you the fortitude to endure the inevitable assault. When you choose to oppose the attacking force, being fearless is like pulling their horses out from under them; they lose their momentum and gravity throws them into the dirt.

The Alliance Defending Freedom takes a strong oppositional stance to anti-bullying efforts in schools. Their strategy involves removing the ability for a child to become confident in themselves. The less the child knows about where they fit into the LGBTQ spectrum of existence the less confident they are. If you give them knowledge, you give them power so the ADF recommends that no information at all or even a mention of LGBTQ issues be part of anti-bullying campaigns. That will prevent struggling children from knowing themselves and certainly prevent sympathy for their lot in this circumstance. By ignoring the topic it becomes easier to use language like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ and ‘dyke’ negatively since no-one has told them not to do so, or has even said that it is bad.

Social pressure, shame and reputation are valued in an authoritarian mindset where rules are respected more than individuals. Self-knowledge is irrelevant in this approach because standards have already been established for all individuals. So, if your kid doesn’t know the kind of pain he is causing a gay target when he calls him a fag, well, it doesn’t really matter because that childish shaming is what keeps the christian rules enforced. And, it is sort of the moral thing to do in their way of thinking because rules are more important than the individual. They don’t see the intentional restriction of knowledge as immoral either, especially if it helps the LGBTQ person know themselves. That sort of thing would let them think and reach conclusions that help build self-confidence which is the bully’s greatest fear. Keep them ignorant so they can be controlled. Let them fear being shamed and fear losing the false god of ‘reputation.’

But the Alliance Defending Freedom doesn’t stop there. They don’t want teachers reporting bullying incidents. They want investigations into bullying events contingent upon whether the bully’s parents permit it. They don’t want bullying events reported by anonymous complainants. They equate any education about LGBTQ issues to be propaganda advancing a Gay Rights agenda and undermining the family structure.

Their version of rules for “anti-bullying” give tacit approval to bully the LGBTQ population. They preemptively steal the student’s ability for self defense. They do this with lawyers under the guise of false moral superiority. They encourage anti-intellectualism, cruelty and blind allegiance to their own ignorant belief system. This is not Christ-like behavior.

The Bully Hole

The speech is written, but the accompanying slides are mere concepts at this point. Something has happened to halt the completion of the project. There is now an overwhelming presence from an almost ideal illustration of the topic of my speech. Its arrival has just ruined everything. If someone were to dream up a metaphor for my topic, they couldn’t begin to achieve the magnificence of this real-life example. It’s such an over…well, I’ve already used ‘overwhelming’ so let’s say very strong personification of the topic of the speech that alters the context and distorts every discussion of it into a political argument.

My first introduction to the issue of anti-bullying activism was back in 2005 when I was chairperson of the Gender Issues and Social Justice Committee of my faculty union. As a gay rights activist I was quite familiar with the topic. We published several emails informing people about the general topic of workplace bullying. It did little to change anything at the time, but the discussion had begun. There was no satisfying solution to the bully problem to give people, so things just sat around. There isn’t a solution now either, but the insights gleaned about how institutions are structured to protect the bully still astonishes me. I won’t go into this any more than to warn folks that the Social Equity (or equivalent) office at your workplace is there to protect the bosses and the institution, not the worker. They will put on a facade of caring and empathy, but that is mostly a mask. I plan for my next book to be about bullying.

Anyway, this Trump guy is the best example of a bully ever. You’d think this would be a godsend to someone speaking about bullies, but it’s not. Every mention of the man is political. Hiring a person to speak on the topic of workplace bullying is not something a business is thrilled about in the first place so any hint of political advocacy (especially anti-republican) would kill the gig. I’d have better luck doing pro-gonorrhea speeches.

If the speech were to be given as it is written, the audience would be distracted by the orange-headed elephant in the room anyway; he’s too obvious. If the speech is re-written to include him, he would dominate the event and that wouldn’t necessarily help workers deal with bullies. Workers need to address this issue in a very intimate way and that can’t happen when everybody jumps to thinking of a presidential bully. His presence in the discussion obscures the vile nature of an attack by a bully at work. He turns the topic into a cartoon of the issue so that you can’t convey the depth of devastation a bully inflicts.

A bullied person is humiliated by the situation, so you can’t just have a cartooned, purple-caped Batman nemesis to represent ‘the bully’; that makes things worse. Bullies always have the upper hand and they are intent upon destruction. The targeted worker is often innocent and unaware of what’s happening until late in the process. If you compare this bully’s assault with all its emotional impact, to the media-class antics of a clown/bully like Trump you will go too far beyond the worker’s reality. Bullied workers are experiencing the biggest, undeserved slap-in-the-face of their lives. It has nothing to do with politics or world events; it’s just the worker in the workplace. That tiny social environment where they spend eight hours a day, where many of their expectations and self-conceptions are made, where everything they knew to be true has suddenly been flipped upon its head. This is personal.

One of the problems a speaker has teaching about bullying is that everyone already believes they know what it is. He (not she?) is the coonskin-cap-wearing redhead with the mossy wire braces who beats up Ralphie in A Christmas Story, right? Well, no. Some children who bully may behave like that, while adult bullies tend to be smart and sophisticated in their subtlety. They are patient plotters who use strategy and time to their advantage. They persuade co-workers and bosses to their side of things. They manipulate circumstances behind the scenes and remain hidden even after the target is gone. They are wily and wicked and often they are motivated by envy and feelings of inferiority.

The bully’s target is usually innocent of misbehavior and often good at their job. The target makes friends easily and gets along with others. The bully becomes enraged at the ease with which the target fits in, and excels at the job and at life in general. They target this person for imagined revenge and seldom let up unless caught or the target leaves. Many bullies are serial bullies, they move from one target to the next.

I’d prefer to have my audience conceive of the bully as Shakespeare’s Iago rather than Batman’s The Penguin, but look who’s stealing the show. His “act” includes the school-yard bully caricature all grown up into a used car salesman. His splashy act is for show, to misdirect everyone from the sneaky Iago-like stuff he does behind the scenes. For me, the spectacle steals focus while the serious job of instruction is left floundering.

It’s like the backhoe digging a bully hole outside a first grade classroom window, are the kids paying attention to the teacher?  If the Principal is the one driving the tractor, how do you explain to the kids that what he’s doing is wrong, without diminishing the office of ‘Principal’? It diminishes the school and the teacher and the students and the whole community.