I’ve heard a lot lately about sexual assault. Before that I heard a lot about bullying.
I think these are two breeds of the same species and I dislike the species altogether. This species is commonly called “monster” by those who recognize it, but there are so many breeds and strains of the animal that they go largely unrecognized. They live among us; they stand in line with us at the grocery store and theirs were the last nasty paws on that dollar bill in your pocket. We condemn them when we are able, we defend them when they are part of “us,” and we vote for them and pay them when we become convinced we have no better choice, and finally, we justify them when we are the guilty one.
From my perspective a common characteristic of this species is their idea that they are bigger by making others smaller. That there is only a finite amount of power, or mass, or strength in the world, and the only way they can accumulate more is to take it from whomever they can. This misunderstanding manifests itself in child abuse, spousal abuse, sexual harassment and assault, schoolyard bullying, political posturing, international land grabbing among nations, and missile and military weapons demonstrations.
The problem is that it works. It does. The child’s fear translates into obedience and the spouse’s terror filters down to submission. The perpetrator is momentarily gratified; the bully gets the lunch money; the demeaning candidate looks more authoritative, and nations will give up assets to avoid mass casualties.
As long as intimidation and violence is effective, it will be used, regardless of how many posters we place in school hallways or how many celebrities make little videos to say how bad it is.
The key is to make that technique useless. We have to stop voting for people who brag about it, or at least remove them once it’s obvious they did it. But as I stated at the top, people still approve of the behavior that benefits them or their side of an equation. When you’re on the powerful side, it’s not bullying after all, right?
I suppose my point here is that this will not be fixed by teaching children not to do it when we are still electing presidents that brag about it. We will not solve the problem by having seminars on sexual harassment if grown people refuse to take responsibility for their own roles in it.
Meanwhile, what if men treasure their wives and children? As Eric Fromm suggested in his book “To Have or to Be,” instead of having a wife, BE a husband. Instead of having children, BE a dad. Instead of having authority or advantage over someone else, BE the leader.
If we could just focus on being what we are meant to be, I’m convinced that that we wouldn’t need to push people down in order to step up. The steps would rise to meet us, or we would be content in our present status.
Alas – I’m talking pie in the sky here. Our president bragged of this type of behavior and built a fortune on it, and the people elected him. Hollywood gives us tv shows and movies showing people making it to the top by these techniques. Some people suggest women should stop giving men mixed messages – I say:
We should stop giving our children mixed messages.