Saturday, 12 May 2012

Bully-boy nation

In Fukushima, children who refused to drink the [contaminated] milk in their school lunches were called to the front of their classes and humiliated by their teachers. ‘They were treated like traitors during the war’, a woman said in a video clip—she was telling the story to [the Japanese prime minister] who chuckled in response.
--Rebecca Solnit, Diary, London Review of Books, 10 May 2012

Looks like chuckling over the humiliation of children is all the rage. Romney’s chuckling (and lying) response to the revelation of his prep school forced hair-cutting incident (the one he ‘doesn’t remember’ while also oddly certain that the kid he can’t recall wasn’t openly gay) is as smarmy as could be expected. But I’m puzzled that anyone is puzzled, either by his behavior or his response to it. Since when have we decided that the weak and powerless should get a break?

Today, ours is a country in which thousands of people will pour into the streets to demand that the state NOT provide them with health care, apparently for fear that some undeserving loser across town will benefit from it (especially an undeserving non-white loser). Ever since the Reaganite triumph of 1980, our guiding principle has been the celebration of greatness of the top, be it the country at the top (ours), the guy at the top (Reagan), or the people at the top (the rich). The famous Santelli rant that is credited with sparking the Tea Party was precisely that: don’t tell me that suffering homeowners should get a break because I don’t give a shit about them, and neither should you.

Unfortunately, the Obama camp represents merely a buffered version of the same mentality as best exemplified by his ‘Race to the Top’ program for the nation’s education system, which explicitly states in its own name that only a few will or should make it. The unspoken corollary is that the rest can piss off up a rope. Not surprisingly, this campaign is accompanied by a full-frontal assault on public education, whose mission is precisely the opposite, to raise all boats through attention to the level of the sea.

Bullying Mitt Romney-style, along with gay bashing, rape, police abuse, macho fisticuffs and war, are all expressions of the bipedal fascination with dominating and crushing one’s fellow species members. This behavior has rather an ancient tradition, and it isn’t likely to be seriously discredited as long as our flawed race does not actively expose, denounce and condemn it. But when bullying is a culture’s operative philosophy, there isn’t much hope for reining it in.

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