To blame or not to blame… an essay on human nature
Another blogger (the wonderful Jaen Wirefly http://authorjaenwirefly.wordpress.com/) had been posting a few articles about bullying, and these caused me to wonder about things. To begin with, human nature.
How do humans communicate?
There is a particularly bizarre fact to be known about human communication: it functions purely on statistics. What? You heard me. Statistics. We are lucky all human beings are relatively similar, because otherwise we wouldn’t understand a thing of each other. Human communication is based on projection. When someone in your environment does something, by example slap someone, you (mis)understand his action not by the action itself (“slapping someone means this”) but rather by projection of your own ideas on the other person (“these are reasons I would slap someone, thus one of them must apply to this person”). This is not a foolproof system, not at all because people have different experiences, different ideas about things,…
Luckily we aren’t all as unique as we like to think. The reasons why you do something are usually quite similar to the reasons why someone else does something. In similar situations, the majority of humans will experience and feel similar things and respond in a similar manner. Human behavior follows the normal probability distribution… (and that is no senseless statement, thanks to the Central Limit Theorem this is mathematically provable)
Conclusion: we understand each other because we all look like each other. Projecting ourself on someone else still gives a pretty accurate image of the other person.
Now where does this goes wrong? Every curve has ends, and so does the normal probability distribution. There exist small numbers of people whose behavior is very different from the majority. These people are the flaws in the projection-based communication system, because when someone projects on them, the projection gives not even a remotely accurate image of the actual person. Their behavior ranges from “odd” to “hard to relate to” to “completely irrational” when compared to “normal” standards. You can imagine these people have a hard time making friends, finding connection with the world around them… after all, the world is made for the majority, not for the ones that stand out.
… leads to disaster.
Now besides a strange method of communicating, humans have another very remarkable feature: the ability to foresee things. Humans can “look into the future” and analyze possible outcomes of a situation. Very useful for survival, no wonder it evolved… But this trait has disadvantages too. Armed with this ability we don’t only worry about the trouble in the present, but also about all trouble that may or may not come in the future! Because although we can foresee, we can’t predict: we don’t know which -if any- of the possible catastrophes will take place. The most logical solution seems to foresee “all” possible trouble and take precautions so when disaster hits, survival is assured. Foreseeing gives us a (false) feeling of control. Enemy in this is unpredictability. Evolutionary speaking, everything that can’t be sufficiently analyzed or at least remotely predicted is dangerous to continued existence and has to be eliminated.
You see where this is going, right? We have a small group of people whose behavior is -due to the nature of human communication- unpredictable and hard to understand. And we have a fundamental fear of unpredictable things. Combine those, and the logical outcome is hate against the ones that seem to threaten the majorities survival. To me, it’s all a matter of instincts.
Personally I think these caveman-instincts have a greater deal to say in children than in adults, because children have less knowledge of the world they live in and are for a great deal depending on their instinctual responses to know what to do in which situation. No wonder thus that bullying is very frequent among kids… I don’t think you can blame bullies for bullying. They only follow their nature, something they’ll -hopefully- learn to fight at an older age.
Again, like all my essays, this is only my opinion. I don’t claim to know the truth about anything. I would like to hear your opinion on this matter, I am open to all ideas…
Thank you for the compliments. I believe the points you raised in this essay are valid: instinctual impulses, survival of the fittest etc. It is up to the bullies parents to teach them that this behavior isn’t acceptable but there are some bullies who have wonderful parents who try to teach them to respect others but the child bullies anyway. Some kids just have a psychopathic need to hurt and humiliate others and will do so regardless of intervention. Also, when people are in groups their behavior is often different when their alone. If you notice most stories about bullying have the following scenario:
The victim is approached when they are alone and vulnerable by two or more predators.
If more severe consequences were given to groups that bully the bullying would stop. Rewards and punishment work but it must be enforced and consistent and be used regardless of gender, class, or race: Never underestimate the viciousness and cruel creativity of upper middle class, ten year old girls.
Oh, I do anything but underestimate the cruelty of kids… children are wonderfully uninhibited when it comes to expressing their ideas about others, and very inventive in coming up with ways to do so…