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.