The Long-Term Effects Of Bullying

UPDATE: This is one response. Please don't take it as a decleration of what happens to all people in all places, or even most people in most places. It's freestlye memoir. Not science.

It's worth spending some time with Terry Gross's piece on the new Mike Tyson doc. I appreciate the fact that Gross didn't just hand the megaphone to James Toback, the director. Instead she also talked to journalist Elmer Smith who was able to balance out Toback's partiality. This was particularly important for the discussion of Tyson's rape case and the events leading up to his infamous bite.

There's a lot of time spent discussing the fact that Tyson was bullied as a child, and how he learned to master that fear. It led me to want to read more journalism on the psychological effects of bullying. I don't mean the "Ban Bullying!" placard waving kind, but some investigation of the long-term effects.  I don't think I ever recovered from getting my ass kicked--a few times--in middle school by the local hard-rocks. But I'm not sure I want to recover either.

That experience, along with the common availability of guns in the neighborhood, made me intimately acquainted with fear. It sucks to experience that at 12--but you also learn the limits of fear. I got my head kicked in once--literally--by some Park Heights kids. Nothing I've seen since then has been more scary then laying on the ground looking up at those dudes. Nothing has been more surreal than having a doctor staple my head shut after getting smacked across the head with a steel trash-can.

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Sounds crazy right? But here's what's crazier, I'm glad it happened. The fact is that bullying never ends--it just gets more subtle. The workplace is replete with bullies, men and women who will hold your livelihood over your head, just to make you dance. Universities and schools are filled with them, people who get a kick out of the power they hold over your future. Relationships are filled with them--people who will try to convince you that your worth is in their hands.

The thing about getting your head kicked in, about getting smacked with a steel trash-can is that it makes mostly everything else I've seen since pale in comparison. That's a function of who I am--I'm not a boxer, and I'm not a soldier at war. But even here, in the everyday bourgoise briefcase world, the worst of humananity is at work. When I was young, I got to see that worse in brutal clarity. Nothing in this life of high rent and low wages can compare.

Damn. I was supposed to be writing about Tyson...

When I was kid, he was so much of what we wanted to be. Perhaps it's tragic, but all of us longed to walk with that sort of feriocity, to declare a new era in West Baltimore, to make an advesary buckle and tumble as follows...