One of Rory Miller’s most formative experiences came from playing football at his tiny high school:
My school was small. Graduating class of six. My junior year, for the first time in almost a decade, they had enough boys to field a B-league (eight man) football team. If I went out for it. As a junior, I was almost the smallest kid in the school. I didn’t break 5 foot tall or a hundred pounds until the summer before my junior year. (I did basketball and track, too. Really small school.) It was a lot of pressure, but we had a team and I played.
And I learned more about human dynamics, and power plays and politics and bullying in that locker room than any academic could ever dream. As did damn near every male (I have no idea how women’s team sports are) who has been through the same thing. Most importantly I learned that size was not a tenth as important as the willingness to stand up. And knocking people down was not as important as getting up yourself. And stepping in to help others is noble, but expecting people to step in is stupid.
And there is a qualitative difference in every aspect of life between the men who have navigated that experience successfully and the ones who have not. I see most of the anti-bullying industry as weak people who failed at overcoming it as children fantasizing about a solution from the distance of adulthood.
Sometimes I see anti-bullying causes as wanting to create a world where it is safe to be weak. And I get that. I like the idea of a safe world. But I virulently despise the concept of a world of the weak. The mild. The insipid. And that is one of the inevitable unintended consequences of making a world too safe.
Much of ‘good’ is unnatural. It takes a sustained act of will. It would take an enormous and coherent act of will to make bullying go away, and even then it will keep cropping up. But if we were to raise children in that perfect environment, would we make them incapable of dealing with adversity? Would the weirdness of people who believe that hurt feelings are are more real than spilled blood, spread? Would our society become a hothouse flower, beautiful but incapable of surviving without the charity of others?
If people never learn to stand up, they become dependent on others to stand up for them. It’s personal, but dependency is one of my core sins. It is the other half of slavery.