Gangs and Bullying: A Virulent Societal Plague
Bullying, whether it’s primarily emotional, physical, racial, cultural, sexually motivated or all of the above, is spreading through the world. Terrorist gangs, better armed and a more lethal version of street gangs, play by similar rules, killing anyone, including cops and rival gang members, to protect the viability of the gang.
The inability to wisely manage power and the resulting misuse of power is at the root of all bullying. No matter where it occurs or how it shows up, the search for the bully blueprint is always found first in the respective families of both bullies and victims and second, in the larger influences of culture and society. In other words bullies and victims don’t arise in a vacuum; there are direct causes and effects.
The questions that need to be asked, and the situations that need to be addressed in order to stop bullying from replicating, are either not being asked and addressed, or if they are, the solutions are inadequate and clearly ineffective. As any gang detective will probably admit, trying to manage criminal gang activity is, in spite of their best enforcement efforts, about as effective in the long-term as playing whack-a-mole.
Female Bullies in Relationships, Schools and the Workplace
The “bully mentality” is not confined to gangs or to men. There is abundant social media evidence proving that teen girls and adult women can be just as vicious as their male counterparts in the bully arena, up to and including tormenting susceptible juveniles until they commit suicide. Wives who emotionally batter their husbands/partners and female bosses who torment their employees are equal opportunity bullies. Teachers and administrators of both genders have been disciplined for bullying students physically and emotionally.
Bullying is the driver of a virulent social plague and right now there’s no vaccine. Bullying poisons trust and respect in relationships, contaminates the workplace, affects readiness and retention in the military, undermines learning in schools, is a major contributor to the proliferation of violent gangs, terrorism recruitment and is especially dangerous on social media. Since the election of Trump, we have seen a documented increase in not only bullying, but violence including murders, against immigrants, non-whites, non-Christians and women. The Junior Bully Society has emerged, emboldened by the public words and ignorant, racist behavior of the President of the United States.
The Power Paradox
The hardcore bullies, the violent street gangbangers and prison inmates think they’re powerful. But the truth is, if they were truly powerful, internally powerful, they wouldn’t have to harm others and break the law to get what they want.
Bullies are inherently insecure people. Sometimes due to having been bullied and abused emotionally and physically, maybe having suffered the humiliation of rejection and discrimination, they’ve internalized shame and it’s turned into white hot rage. They want to even the score—to hurt others the way they’ve been hurt. They want to be heard, they want power and in some cases “justice.” But instead of getting justice, they end up in prison or dead, because what they really wanted was vengeance. And the legacy of despair and violence continues to infect the next generation.
Can Bullying Erode the Foundations of a Civilized Society?
History clearly shows the answer to be yes. All dictators and despots are first and foremost, bullies. All repressive regimes use bullying tactics to oppress and control their people and spread their ideology. The insidious link between a street gang and a potential dictator is that if they’re smart, they tend to recruit by seduction, not force. They build their brand on the streets, in social media and through their swaggering bravado which attracts disenfranchised, hurt, angry loners.
These recruits, mostly young men, may have been victimized by bullies at home and/or school. This shame conditioning makes them desperate for power and acceptance, a propaganda tactic that ISIS has exploited quite successfully in their recruitment and subsequent radicalization of fighters and lone wolf terrorists. Neighborhood street gangs provide the “family” connection as well—loyalty, protection, structure and acceptance against a backdrop of ruthless intimidation and brutal violence.
Bullies maintain control by any means they deem necessary including bombing nearly an entire country into rubble and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, as is happening now in Syria. Does it matter whether the oppression comes from a violent, controlling spouse, boss, gang or dictator? In terms of characteristics, not much. All use intimidation, threats, retribution and sometimes emotional or physical violence to establish dominance and cement their lock on power and control.
Gang bullying in U.S. cities is essentially the “pro” version of schoolyard variety bullying. Neighborhood gangs are more ruthless, better organized, often in possession of military grade firepower, and are financed by drug dealing, prostitution and even extortion, which used to be the Mafia’s exclusive claim to fame. When their territory and/or their collective ego is threatened, vicious street gangs not only kill and maim each other; innocent civilians also die in the crossfire.
Gangs, Terrorists and the Art of Recruitment
The most dangerous forms of home-grown gang bullying are the extremist groups that worry law enforcement the most: the anti-government gangs such as Sovereign Citizens, racist hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and others. On the international level, ISIS and other extremist bully ideologies claim that “God” legitimizes their atrocities. That’s ridiculous of course because there is no holy book, including the Islamic Holy Quran, in which God by any name endorses the murder of innocent people on His behalf. However, expertly woven propaganda, “join us, be powerful, respected and important” speaks directly to disenfranchised loners, who are easy to manipulate and who therefore make excellent gang or terrorist recruits.
Now that the racist bullies have been emboldened by our Bully-in-Chief, concerned citizens, parents, civic and business groups and others who care need to come together to support educators and police in an effort to intervene with the families who are, through their own dysfunctional histories, producing both bullies and victims. How? Stay tuned for part two…