“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” Tyler Durden to Ed Norton in Fight Club
“If you let a bully come in your front yard, he’ll be on your porch the next day and the day after that he’ll rape your wife in your own bed.” President Lyndon Banes Johnson
Phil Gramm was wrong. We’re not a nation of whiners. We’re a nation of fat kids, wimps and victims. No one wants to hear it but it’s true. If you don’t learn how to stand up for yourself it’s only a matter of time (like between first period and recess) before you’re someone’s personal punching bag. America has become obsessed with stamping out bullying through PSAs and conferences.
But if the viral video sensation of Casey Heynes has shown us anything, talking and seminars are fine, but the best way to stop a bully is with a good old fashioned a**-kicking.
An Australian 16-year-old, Heynes, became a viral sensation last week when the 40-second video of him being taunted, then cowering then eventually fighting back against a school bully was viewed by millions of people. The “Zangief Kid,” a nickname he got for his Street Figther style takedown of bully Richard Gale, captures the global zeitgeist on bullying in the last year. Notice how Casey doesn’t relish violence or stand over his defeated foe and glare. He handles his business like a man then leaves the scene.
Facebook pages have sprung up and the web is aflame with people praising Casey for standing up for himself, and inspiring other kids to do the same. In Casey Heynes’ interview on the the Australian Current Affair, the world does a collective fist pump as the kid talks about being picked on for years and finally ‘snapping’ because he was just tired of being the victim. Maybe once this video does the rounds, this whole anti-bullying crusade will stop.
The world needs bullies because without bullies there are no heroes. Without bullies good people will never learn just how strong they can be. Without Goliath, David doesn’t figure out what a badass he is. Without a bucket of blood, Carrie doesn’t figure out how great her powers are. Without the Plastics, Cady Heron never figures out that she’s cool just the way she is. If there was not Pacific Gas & Electric, Erin Brokovich remains a no-name paralegal.
But it gets better than that: Donkey Lips, Slaughter Hog, Nigger Lips, Blubber, and Watermelon Head are the childhood taunts that gave us Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Steve Tyler, Kate Winslet and Macy Gray. These names didn’t break them, they only got stronger.
Bullies, in moderation, bring out the best in us.
Now let me be clear: I’m not advocating turning high schools into publicly-funded “Lord of the Flies” re-enactments. But there is a difference between school violence, disruptive abuse, and the kind of lousy mean behavior that everyone should have to learn how to navigate in order to reach adulthood. No child should go to school everyday fearing for their life or coming home in bruises. Responsible adults and teachers should maintain enough control in class to stop kids from slinging verbal bombs at each other in the middle of English class. But once kids are in the hallways it’s every boy and girl for themselves; just like in real life. If school doesn’t prepare you for real life, what’s the point?
Some people are bad. They do bad things and they get what they deserve. Richard Gale, the tormentor in the video, did a follow-up television interview where he claims that he was as much a victim as Casey Heynes. He goes onto say that his bad family situation explains why he was bullying the fat kid. I’m not buying it. Gale was a bully. He got beat down and now he’s looking for sympathy like all bullies do when they’ve been knocked down a peg. We, as a society, need to stop trying to analyze and understand bullies and simply put them in their place.
Getting picked on is an unfortunate but necessary part of growing up. We as adults need to back up and let kids sort some of this out for themselves. In 20 years, when Casey Heynes is Sydney’s best criminal prosecutor putting thugs who terrorize old ladies behind bars, we’ll be happy we let him show his inner street fighter on a warm spring day in 2011.