I was teased as a kid.  Some days were better than others and some others weren’t so great, but the fact is that from the time I entered first grade through high school graduation, there was something in me which drew the jibes, catcalls and slanders from my fellow students.  Somehow I was different, though exactly how I had no idea back then.  This whole business was made worse by the fact that for a great deal of that time, I was hyper-sensitive to that kind of abuse and could not control my reactions to it.  Quite naturally, this only encouraged my assailants to pursue my goat all the more energetically and frequently with similar levels of success.  I was well into my adult years before I had even begun to get a handle on how to face such attacks and recognize them for the incoherent noise that they were.

More recently we’ve seen the advent of political correctness, the attempts to soften speech in consideration for those who don’t deal well with unfiltered reality, with harsh facts or people.  We hear terms like “safe spaces” and pejoratives such as “special snowflakes” with regard to couching solutions for those who find the latent or blatant hostility around them too much to bear.

Obviously, I know something about that.  At the risk of recycling an old trope: been there, done that, the t-shirt’s a rag.  Back when I had to plow through the slings and arrows proffered by my fellows, the PC concept was as non-existent as any organized program with the goal of countering bullying behavior.  The kids who heckled me didn’t give a damn about how I felt about their harassment, and any downside to their behavior never reached my awareness.  In fact, when confronted with my situation, most of the school’s teachers and administrators acknowledged that they were largely powerless to take any meaningful action which would put an end to their behavior.  Worth mentioning too is the shrink I saw twice a week for too many years.  Though he did his level best, I can’t say that his input especially aided me or improved things much if at all.  In the final analysis, I just slogged through it.  It was neither easy nor painless, and yeah, there were plenty of scars, but I survived.

Reflecting on all of this, I realize that I have been a long time learning the following two lessons:

  • The world is not safe.
  • The world cannot be made safe for everyone.

Twenty-first century Planet Earth is probably more civilized than it has been at any time in its 4.5 billion years.  Violence – aggression of human against human – is at its lowest point in the history of Homo sapiens.  It is entirely likely that the human race will do even better as time goes on.  But … will we ever fully purge the desire or the tendency of one to act out on another, whether verbally or physically?  Honestly, I am dubious.

As for what this means for those who want the world to recognize and respect their sensitivities, all I have to say is this.  Some of the world may be willing to change for them, but all of it?  Never.  Won’t happen.  Political correctness and safe spaces are short term Band-Aids at best.  At some point or other, they can either learn to value themselves sufficiently and develop the strength necessary to defend against their opposition or resign themselves to living with the pain the noisemakers wish to inflict.

It's not a pretty solution ... but then it's not a safe world.

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Comment by Michael Penn on March 3, 2017 at 7:19am

The world is not safe.
The world cannot be made safe for everyone.

Loren, I think your above 2 sentences hit it exactly. At what time will the world be safe for everyone? Never. It isn't going to happen. We have no superpower that is a "super enforcer" for one set of standards that will be shared thoughout the world. Along with political correctness this is an ideal set basically by politics. The world is unfair and media exploits this along with many political systems. It's just another way of controlling people.

Maybe someday this will all change but I'm not holding my breath.

Comment by Loren Miller on March 1, 2017 at 9:27pm

@Joan – It was a long and checkered journey for me, Joan, and I suspect even more torturous for you, but we both got there.  Considering that, I still think that something which would help immensely yet is neither taught nor encouraged in our society is the matter of understanding ourselves, getting to know who first person, singular is, what he or she wants and needs.  In this day and age, knowing yourself is easily as important as the "Three R's" and in fact, far more so, and it desperately needs to be addressed globally.

@Ruth – Cooperative culture it a great ideal and we may get there one day, but 100% of us?  Honestly, I'm STILL dubious.  I can't escape the feeling that there will always be those who have to be first in line, want their serving before everyone else, and expect preferential treatment, and they'll do that on the backs of those who don't know how to defend themselves.  Whether it's the reptile-brain thing or poor parenting or what, I have no idea, but eradicating traits like those from Homo sapiens will be one hell of a hill to climb.  Whether it is Sisyphean or not is yet to be determined.

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on March 1, 2017 at 9:14pm

While the world is becoming more dangerous, it's important to distinguish sources of danger. One of the foundations of Dominator Culture is fear, presupposing the world always has to be dangerous and competitive and accepting that as the only reality. Then the male authoritarian family head or political leader justifies rule by punishment and violence, by fear, on the grounds that he is protecting you. Don't give up the possibility of cooperative culture, mutual respect, and making the world a better place. Don't give up empathic bonding outside of violent hierarchies - across diverse peoples and lifestyles. That future is the only one humanity will survive.

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 1, 2017 at 9:08pm

The world is not a safe place, and no one is going to ride in to solve problems and conficts for us. At some point, each one of us has to stand on our own, set limits as to what is permissable and not, what is tolerable and not. 

If we are wise, we have a "cloud of witnesses" who will stand with us when we have to take a stand. Some times we have to take a leadership role, even is there are no supporters to back us up.

I don't know what it was like being a boy and facing bullying, Loren. I can't imagine the torment that you experienced growing up. It must have been especially hard with the nature of your father and your relationship to him. Gratefully, you had the intelligence to learn that you mattered and how you felt mattered.  

Whether a little boy or little girl faced with violence when he or she is too young, ego defense mechanisms develop that act as scar tissure to protect one and make survival more likely. Ego defense mechanisms too often get in the way of mature, adult relationships. A lot of healing can take place as one grows into adulthood, but scar tissue remains.

Thankfully, you found a way to rebuild your self-esteem and your strength of character. You provide good solid support for others who face tough challenges and understand the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. I am truly sorry you experienced such violence as a young boy; I am truly grateful you grew into a man of integrity and srength . 



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