And yet, the author goes on to more or less defend the bullies in question, using some very shaky arguments.
The “teenagers will be teenagers” canard is invoked almost at once. Well, no. Speaking as one who was a well-bullied teenager, the bullies were not typical; they were the psychopathic minority who had the rest of us thoroughly cowed. There was one time the school bully picked me more or less at random out of a crowded hallway and tried to see if blunt force trauma would really rupture a bowel: The carefully expressionless faces of the numerous onlookers said it all. “I am not volunteering to be next by showing any reaction to a random act of violence.”
This is followed by the “suck it up” argument:
Part of becoming an adult is learning to deal with mean people, and people who just suck as humans (I know, as attorneys, many of our readers are intimately familiar with that kind of person). Trying to execute every eighth-grade bully is not going to eliminate adult jerks. It will just make young adults less capable of dealing with them once their mothers or school principals are no longer in charge.
Sorry. I prefer to save my Birkenhead moments for innocent women and children, rather than wasting them on budding young psychopaths.
Then comes the “they’re just acting out the bullying they were themselves subject to.” Possibly true and largely irrelevant. A fair number of bullies are, in fact, former victims; but it does not follow that more than a fraction of victims end up as bullies. I was badly bullied as a teenager, but look how well I turned out. (Well, except for those Tuskan raiders, who any objective observer must acknowledge needed killing. And that Alderaan business, but that was really Tarkin’s fault. The man was insane. … Okay, perhaps I’m not the best example, but the point is still valid.) Anyway, if bullying is just “teenagers being teenagers”, why do you need to argue that the bullies were raised in an abnormally cruel environment”?
I almost agree with the last part:
What is the old expression? Oh yeah: kill them with kindness.
Unfortunately, outside the fantasy world of South Park (which is manifestly a strange place from which to draw your religious precepts) that isn’t all there is to it. Shaming with kindness only works when the target is capable of shame. There has been more than enough sociological research to show that the distinguishing characteristic of most violent criminals is extreme narcissism, and the distinguishing characteristic of narcissism is a lack of capacity for shame.
In any case, there’s no real kindness in the dialog quoted. It’s simply verbal abuse shrouded in passive-aggressive trappings, and both the kid, the grandmother, and the audience know it. If we enjoy it, it’s because, deep inside, we believe the grandma has it coming. Which kind of contradicts the idea that Grandma herself must once have been abused and should therefore be deserving of our sympathy.
The article promotes a contradictory but very dark vision of mankind, starting with the quote at the top of my post. Does this describe the teenagers you know? Really?