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How not to take any sh*t


There is to be no cosmic comeuppance for those who are arrogant and malevolent. There is to be no divine retribution or redress for their victims. There will be no final judgement at which time all will be set right.

What can one do in the face of such injustice?

ANOTHER HARD TRUTH

This, sadly, is the real law of karma, the weak are predisposed to wither and be swept out of existence and the strong are destined to flourish and gain dominion. Remember Matthew 25:29 from our previous post:

“To those who have everything, more will be given; from those who have nothing, everything will be taken.”

The only option for the weak, to avoid being trampled over, is to become stronger. But how do we do this? That will be our topic for a number of posts over the course of the coming weeks.

Firstly, it is important to remember that luck plays a big part in your position on the dominance hierarchy, as do a great many extrinsic factors (factors outside of your control). This is not a fair race, the referees are very far from impartial, the rules are outrageously rigged and the playing field could hardly be less level. The universe is absolutely not fair. Abandon that harmful delusion at the outset. Let the scales fall from your eyes.

Know that the cream does not always rise to the top and the real dregs are not always to found at the bottom (Nietzsche himself believed that for centuries it has been the weak who have actually prevailed in our western culture). The point is, that even if you are languishing at the bottom, it doesn’t mean you are necessarily a bad person or that you deserve to fail. Conversely, high status is no guarantee of true quality just as low status is not definitive proof of defect. Things are way more complicated than that.

BULLY BACK

Back to bullies. When subjected to an attack by a bully, either physical or psychological, one’s immediate impulse can be to try and effect an escape from the situation, especially as our culture frowns on all expressions of aggression and conflict. ‘Don’t let them get to you’, we say, ‘ignore them’, we advise. Dare we mention: ‘turn the other cheek’?

But you should remember, though it may be the case that the bully is making a victim of you just to make themselves look or feel superior right now, the ultimate implications of this attack are that they are trying to push you down the dominance hierarchy. This slide could prove terminal, especially if they come back again and again to victimise you. They are trying to use you as a rung in their own bid to climb the ladder but, in some evolutionary sense, they are also trying to destroy you!

To end your line.

To erase your presence from existence.

Because those at the bottom of the hierarchy tend, ultimately, to be flushed out of the gene pool.

Are you really going to take that? Are you really going to walk away from such an affront to your very being? Sure, it may just be some snide, passive-aggressive remarks, but taken to its logical end – it is obliteration.

In the Jordan Peterson book I have previously cited, it is argued that tyranny will occupy space precisely to the degree that we make room for it. If you turn the other cheek and walk away you add real estate to the bully's empire of intimidation, you embolden them and, undeniably, you make it more likely that others will be bullied. By refusing to take responsibility, you make standing up for justice someone else’s problem. Suffering bullying is crushing, but crushing a bully is one of the most edifying and empowering experiences one can have. A profound existential triumph that cries out to the stars ‘I am not going to stand for this! I will not be dominated! I will not be destroyed!’ It is an ostentatious expression of pure, unadulterated Will to Power.

So, though it can be very hard and require inordinate courage, standing up to oppression and injustice is crucial, even if you just do it in small ways. Speak truth to power, push back against unfairness, draw lines in the sand and don’t let them be crossed without consequence – do not put up and shut up.

All this means you must be prepared to fight, not physically (thankfully) in most cases, but yes - sometimes physically. So this means it’s helpful to be strong in body as well as mind. And we know how mutually dependent mind and body are. To paraphrase Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid movie: I learn to fight so I don’t have to fight. As Jordan Peterson says: if you can bite, you generally don’t have to. A bully is as acutely sensitive to cues of strength as they are signs of weakness. Be dangerous and, chances are, no one will even attempt to f*ck with you.

ON POINT

There has been a lot of research around ‘social norms’ in the field of behavioural science. This has been in an attempt to address unhealthy behaviours, such as alcohol use or speeding in cars. One of most famous examples of this research being applied was in Montana where smoking rates amongst teenagers were reduced by addressing social norms myths. It is an old cliché that teens engaging in drinking, smoking, premature sex, or drugs and suchlike will respond when challenged about these behaviours by saying ‘but everyone is doing it’. Social norms research tells us that the truth is that the prevalence of such behaviours is generally much lower among peers than the members of that peer-group assume. By addressing these myths these unhealthy behaviours can thereby be reduced.

A key takeaway from this research is that people look for cues from others about how to behave in particular situations. The trouble is that everyone else is looking for those cues too. We are all waiting for someone to make the first move.

This is worth noting when dealing with unjust situations. You may witness bullying or unfairness but perceive that everyone else seems to be fine with it, so maybe it’s not your place to say anything. The trouble is, everyone else is likely to be thinking the exact same thing.

Some years back, I was on a night bus when a group of drunk teenage males got on. They were particularly boisterous and one or two of them sneaked on without paying for a ticket. The driver challenged them and refused to move the bus until they had paid their fairs. An argument ensued which looked like it could descend into violence. I was rattled, as were the other people on the bus. The presence of this large group of young, aggressive males was very threatening. None of us said anything. We sat quietly as the argument got more vociferous and started to become physical. I could sense that an intervention was necessary, but should I get involved? No one else was doing anything? Maybe it wasn’t my business to step in? Then one of the young men spat in the drivers face. That was the line crossed for me. I stood up and confronted them, ordering them off the bus. They turned on me and I thought things were about to get really ugly. At that point everyone else on the bus stood up and waded into the row. A women shouted at them that they should be ashamed of themselves. Others announced they were calling the police. Now that the whole bus was lining up against them, the boys thought better of giving me a beating and got off.

What was very clear to me in this situation, was that all the passengers on the bus felt that what was going on was unacceptable but we were all waiting for permission to act; for someone to make the first move; for someone to take the risk in the hope that everyone else would fall-in behind and help. People sometimes need a cue to do the right thing.

Take a risk. Be the catalyst. Be the upstander. Don’t take any sh*t.

Next post: Get back on the horse

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