The Culling is Here: Is Abuse a Form of Social Control?

Amidst the recent spate of news stories about bullied youth committing suicide (at least nine in September), ScienceDaily reports:

Loners and antisocial kids who reject other children are often bullied at school — an accepted form of punishment from peers as they establish social order. Such peer victimization may be an extreme group response to control renegades, according to a new study from Concordia University published in the Journal of Early Adolescence.

“For groups to survive, they need to keep their members under control,” says author William M. Bukowski, a professor at the Concordia Department of Psychology and director of its Centre for Research in Human Development. “Withdrawn individuals threaten the strong social fabric of a group, so kids are victimized when they are too strong or too antisocial. Victimization is a reaction to anyone who threatens group harmony.”

Bukowski notes that the word victimization is related to the word for sacrifice and speculates the term remains relevant in establishing modern dynamics among kids. “Peers who are victimized are sacrificed for the survival of the group.”

The study, which focused on 367 English-speaking kids enrolled in grades five and six at public schools in Montreal, was undertaken to gain better insight into what makes some kids popular while others are perceived as victims or bullies.

The research team focused on social versus physical aggression among kids. “Using aggression in ways that are acceptable by peers is critical in children keeping their social status and, in turn, their social dominance,” says Bukowski, noting physical attractiveness and personality traits could also influence peer standing. “We found dominant children used organized, instrumental types of relational aggression to position themselves.”

To ascertain whether kids were leaders, victims or bullies, Bukowski and his team asked participants — 176 boys and 191 girls — to rate same gender peers on 17 characteristics. Bullies, for instance, were characterized as kids “who says bad things behind other people’s backs; who purposely keep others out of their group; who tell friends they’ll stop liking them unless they do what they want.”

Alpha-kids were described as “someone who others kids usually follow; someone who is often a leader; someone who always get their own way.”

Victims, for their part, were described as “someone who gets hit or kicked by other kids; someone who gets beaten up by other kids; someone who gets ignored; someone who other kids say mean things about behind their back.”

Read more here.

We’ve been told school’s purpose is to prepare us for the workplace, right?  Apparently it’s true.  From Marge Mueller’s interview with family therapist Chauncey Hare:

Like child and spousal abuse 30 years ago, work abuse is still ignored by society.

“It’s everywhere and it’s highly denied,” Hare says. “Right now, there’s no way for a person to make the distinction between something that’s not work abuse and something that is—-until he or she goes through an enormous, highly traumatic situation.”

“In any organization that is authoritarian work abuse is prevalent. But because of denial people aren’t acknowledging it.”

Hare and co-author and wife Judith Wyatt, both licensed psychotherapists in San Francisco, coined the term work abuse in a 1988 report to the California legislature’s task force team on self-esteem. According to The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research’s statistics, 95 percent of all work organizations are authoritarian.

“That’s where work abuse happens” says Hare “In those 95% of organizations that are authoritarian.”

Four Types of Work Abuse

According to Hare, four types of work abuse exist. Neglectful or ongoing abuse occurs when employees’ basic needs are not met or they are blamed for expressing these needs. Ongoing abuse often happens in the midst of the other three types of work abuse.

In chronic scapegoating one person is chosen for abuse by the group. Everyone joins in as a way to vent negative feelings that can’t otherwise be addressed in the work system. If the scapegoat leaves the company, another employee usually assumes the scapegoat role.

With acute scapegoating one person receives the negative treatment–usually because the person’s behaviors don’t match group norms. The scapegoating stops when this employee leaves the organization.

Denial of due process, the fourth type of work abuse, occurs secondary to the other forms of abuse. With denial of due process the employer prevents or undermines appropriate means to resolve conflicts. Most work “horror stories” are cases of scapegoating resulting from unresolved conflicts.

Read more here.

Filmmaker, musician, and former psychotherapist Daniel Mackler sees an even bigger picture:

A traumatized child is safe to broken parents because he does not threaten their dishonest authority. Thus he earns his crumb of love. A traumatized student is safe to broken teachers because he does not question their unearned authority. Thus he earns his right to gain a false education.

A traumatized worker is safe to broken bosses because he follows their numbing orders. Thus he keeps his dead job and perpetuates a dead system.

A traumatized soldier is safe to a bloodthirsty military because he will mindlessly kill anyone when ordered. Thus he perpetuates grand horrors and retaliation in the world, which proves to the world hell-bent on violent revenge that his criminal presence is required.

A traumatized spouse is safe to broken partners because he never really looks them in the eye and utters those dangerous and honest truths that destroy false relationships. Thus he stays married, never has to be alone with himself, and earns society’s approval.

Mackler references traumatized soldiers.  The military’s suicides rate has been rising recently.  And that brings us back to the bullied kids I mentioned at the outset.  Read the other side of his equation here.

Many states across the country are taking laudable steps to enact measures that bolster administrators’ ability to protect students who face such harassment. However, despite the evidence supporting the need, right-wing lawmakers and activists insist that anti-bullying measures are nothing more than insidious tools of the “homosexual agenda”:

– The American Family Association of Michigan has spent years decrying a proposed anti-bullying measure as “a Trojan Horse to sneak [homosexual activists'] special rights agenda into law” and to “legitimize homosexual behavior” which is “a practice scientifically proven to result in a dramatically higher incidence of domestic violence, mental illness, illegal drug use, promiscuity, life-threatening disease, and premature death.” The bill “died in 2008 in the state Senate because senators could not agree” on whether to address bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the measure.

– In Minnesota, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer said he would not sign the anti-bullying Safe Schools For All bill because “I don’t want the government” instead of parents to be on “the front line of defense of our children.” Indeed, Emmer voted against and Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) vetoed the same bill in 2009 after the right-wing Minnesota Family Council pushed legislators to reject the bill in 2009 because it would “promote acceptance of homosexuality.”

– The right-wing Christian media ministry Focus on the Family is attacking an anti-bullying standard on the federal level. Insisting that bullying prevention is being “hijacked by activists” who are “politicizing or sexualizing the issue,” Focus on the Family’s Candi Cushman claims that the anti-bullying bill currently before Congress “cater[s] to a narrow political agenda” that “becomes a gateway for homosexuality promotion in school.” In their current back-to-school guide “equipping” parents with tools against the “sneaky” gay agenda, Cushman told parents to look out for bullying seminars, diversity lessons, and “cute little pictures of furry animals” as “red flags” signaling the “gay agenda.”

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    This may just be an irreducable part of our biology. No avoiding it.

    But it’s a shame that as a supposedly sophisticated society that we delegate this evolutionarily crucial task to the least thoughtful among us (i.e., Sarah Palin, 4th graders, etc., etc., etc.).

    Hunter S. Thompson seemed to have caught on during the ’72 Presidential campaign, though, and used it to great effect in a journalistic experiment: “Ed Muskie Doomed by Ibogaine: A Drug Plot Revealed”.

    I guess if the right are going to use this, and there’s no avoiding it, the left may as well use it, too. But with the current crop of uninspiring dingbats on the Tea Bag patrol, it’s hard to imagine aiming a blow low enough to do any damage.

    Here’s a thought, though: What if internet rumours were to spread that Christine O’Donnell smelled like pee and ate paste in elementary school? That seems just about Tea Bagger speed.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    This may just be an irreducable part of our biology. No avoiding it.

    But it’s a shame that as a supposedly sophisticated society that we delegate this evolutionarily crucial task to the least thoughtful among us (i.e., Sarah Palin, 4th graders, etc., etc., etc.).

    Hunter S. Thompson seemed to have caught on during the ’72 Presidential campaign, though, and used it to great effect in a journalistic experiment: “Ed Muskie Doomed by Ibogaine: A Drug Plot Revealed”.

    I guess if the right are going to use this, and there’s no avoiding it, the left may as well use it, too. But with the current crop of uninspiring dingbats on the Tea Bag patrol, it’s hard to imagine aiming a blow low enough to do any damage.

    Here’s a thought, though: What if internet rumours were to spread that Christine O’Donnell smelled like pee and ate paste in elementary school? That seems just about Tea Bagger speed.

  • Dshep369

    You are all unmutual and must be conveted via Social Conversion.

  • Dshep369

    You are all unmutual and must be conveted via Social Conversion.

  • Dshep369

    But seriously, wasn’t the first thing to crawl out of the ocean unmutual? Good thing IT wasn’t affected by peer pressure or we might not be here……

  • Dshep369

    But seriously, wasn’t the first thing to crawl out of the ocean unmutual? Good thing IT wasn’t affected by peer pressure or we might not be here……

  • FergalR

    Maybe it’s unnatural for hundreds of children to be confined together for 8 hours a day and it causes psychotic behaviour?

    Hah. Just kidding. It’s the victim’s fault.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it’s unnatural for hundreds of children to be confined together for 8 hours a day and it causes psychotic behaviour?

    Hah. Just kidding. It’s the victim’s fault.