Category Archives: bullying (pleasures of)

Bullying is fun

At least, writes Dalrymple, it is

for people of a certain kind of twisted personality or temperament. They feel that they increase in stature if they humiliate others: I look big because I make you look small.

Those who have been victims

often turn out to be bullies themselves once they have achieved power of some kind; it is as if they are avenging themselves on their past tormentors by humiliating the unfortunate people who have now come under their power. They forget their own humiliation by humiliating others.

In Britain, Dalrymple notes, there is

a strange attitude. On the one hand it has never been as prevalent as now; on the other, we are hypersensitive to it.

Many branches of the public service have ‘anti-bullying’ policies. They

state that an employee has been bullied if he thinks that he has. When he makes an official complaint, he does not have to prove than his feeling is justified, only that he has felt it. He is the final authority on that. Anyone who is ticked off for not doing something can claim to have been bullied. This makes people wary of ticking anyone off, even when he has failed to do his job properly.

The anti-bullying policy

concentrates power in the hands of senior management, for it is they who have to adjudicate. At the same time, senior management are immune from claims that it is bullying precisely because it so successfully subordinates the hierarchy below. So two great classes are set up: not the rich and the poor, or the clever and the stupid, but the bullied and the bullies, or those who can be persecuted and those who cannot.

There is, Dalrymple points out,

no perfect solution to the problem of bullying. Legal prohibitions cannot eradicate it, nor can any number of organisations or policies. It is more a matter of manners than of law, and we live in a very bullying and intimidating social atmosphere. (You have only to watch behaviour at bus stops to realise this.) Increasing numbers of people think that power is the most, or the only, important relationship worth having with other people; so their criterion of how to behave is what they can get away with.

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Empire of supposed virtue

Amsterdam City Hall

Dalrymple reports that Amsterdam’s city council has forbidden the use of the locution ‘ladies and gentlemen’ in its halls and precincts, so as not to upset those who consider themselves neither male nor female, or consider themselves both. He comments:

No evidence that the locution caused any widespread distress, let alone harm, needed to be adduced. The prohibition was an exercise in power, not an expression of sensitivity. It was a Lilliputian step in the creation of an empire of supposed virtue, in which the rulers will enjoy simultaneously the awareness of their goodness and the pleasures of bullying.