Saturday, October 30, 2010

the bullies among (and within) us...

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“Science may have found a cure for most evils, but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all--the apathy of human beings.”


- Helen Keller
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I was watching the network evening news the other night (I rarely "watch" it, but it's in the background while I'm reading the news I choose, here on the 'puter) and a story came on about bullying among kids being "epidemic." Now pundits and officials and parents across the nation are in shock and despair... again. Whatever.

It's funny how memories from childhood stick. When I was 12 or so I remember hearing the story of Kitty Genovese. It impressed me. Not much impressed me when I was 12 if it wasn't outside. But sometimes, you know, the world makes even little kids sit up and pay attention. I'd grown up white middle class and my dad worked and my mom was home, doing the housewife thing. Life was good. We lived in Southern California and the weather was great (the occasional smog alert was always a drag) and LA hadn't consumed everything around it so I still had fields and woods to poke around in.

But Kitty Genovese has stuck in my mind, even after all these years.

New York Times
Martin Gansberg
March 27, 1964

For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.

That was two weeks ago today.

Still shocked is Assistant Chief Inspector Frederick M. Lussen, in charge of the borough's detectives and a veteran of 25 years of homicide investigations. He can give a matter-of-fact recitation on many murders. But the Kew Gardens slaying baffles him--not because it is a murder, but because the "good people" failed to call the police.

"As we have reconstructed the crime," he said, "the assailant had three chances to kill this woman during a 35-minute period. He returned twice to complete the job. If we had been called when he first attacked, the woman might not be dead now."


I don't know... why did 38 people ignore the screams of a woman under violent and murderous attack? It certainly was a different time culturally but wasn't this an instance that would incite our nobler aspects?

I think what cemented Kitty's story in my mind was the sadness it produced in me. Even then I think my empathic senses knew we were in trouble. But I was on the cusp of puberty, girls were starting to look... pretty. And lord help me, I was liking dancing with them. Even... kissing them was enjoyable. Heck, I even liked my little sister...

... anyway... I'll get distracted by despairing the direction my path has taken since I started liking females so let's get back to the topic. Sorry for the digression. (I hope the tongue poking my cheek was obvious)

I mean I don't really know where my propensity for caring like I do came from. Why do some things touch me so deeply I cry? Could it have been all those episodes of Lassie and Rin Tin Tin ("Yo Rinnie!") or maybe I did meet a magical frog that gave me a special gift when I was 2. Another of life's little mysteries remains unsolved... for now.

When I was stationed in Thailand I got started with meditation when a young man came to the base and started a meditation class. He was from a group called Ananda Marga, an organization dedicated to teaching yoga and meditation and providing social services to humanity. It was sometime after that I had my bout of conscienciousness and didn't want to help bomb short brown people anymore. More fallout I suspect from an overdose of Lassie's compassion.

After that religion was anything but organized, for me. But one thing I found in my reading and listening to folks of different beliefs was that at the core all had the intent to promote good. And I enjoyed finding out bits and pieces about everybody's god views as I travelled along my merry way. That is until I met my first really obnoxious evangelists... and then I realized there were spiritual bullies in the world. Another sad realization...

So what does Kitty Genovese have to do with bullies? Well... the man that killed her comitted the ultimate act of bullying - murder. And 38 people stood by and did nothing...

So, today we have an epidemic of bullying...

Note the footnote on the Kitty Genovese article I linked to:

The above reported events are true and took place on March 14, 1964.

The brutal murder of Kitty Genovese and the disturbing lack of action by her neighbors became emblematic in what many perceived as an evolving culture of violence and apathy in the United States. In fact, social scientists still debate the causes of what is now known as "the Genovese Syndrome."


"an evolving culture of violence and apathy"

Would not it make sense that today's bullying fits the profile? Where I wonder have the kids picked this up from? *gasp* Anybody paying attention to the political season?
Listening to any talk radio? Have you tried to discuss controversial, topical issues in online forums... mean and nasty is mainstream.

Bullying is cool... who needs truth, fact or civility when all that's really needed is a bad attitude and an internet soap box (to virtually stand on)? Tough is good, everything else is sissiefied and unfit for an equal standing in society.

I tell ya what... y'all have me really worried. If you're not standing up and (metaphorically at least) saving Kitty Genovese's life this time, then you are one of those 38 people not even responsible enough to make a phone call. Metaphorically speaking of course.

A pox on your houses, some would say...

Mammon is a cruel master and makes for a terrible religion. It is a religion of bullies... and a religion that runs roughshod over the landscape providing it's base resources.

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Kitty had crossed my mind a lot recently, I thought she deserved some recognition. Not every victim of violence and apathy get a syndrome named after them.

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Speaking of bullies, do you recognize this man:





That's Gil. Gil is a bully. Gil didn't have a dictionary. Gil thinks it's his duty to lie. Actually, kinda, it his job to lie, Congress says so. He's the Drug Kzar. Is it easier to lie if you don't have a dictionary?

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

- Theodore Roosevelt
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