08 June 2011


BULLIES. "Abusive treatment, the use of force or coercion to affect others, verbal harrassment, intimidation, physical assault." Bullying manifests both among children and among adults. It has often been suggested that bullying has its formative roots in childhood. Many (though not all) bullies were themselves mistreated as younger children, usually by parents or older children. In order to bolster their self-esteem, these young victims use the only language they've been shown, and become bullies themselves. Some may witness a parent (usually the same gender parent) engage in physical, verbal or emotional abuse, and adopt that model as a guide to their own behavior.

Other risk factors may elicit bullying behavior -- envy, resentment, depression, a strong need to control or dominate, personality disorders, even addiction to aggressive behaviors. The end result is always a need to seek out targets (usually those perceived as weaker) upon whom to inflict abuse.

What is often overlooked is that when bullies mature, so does their behavior. A study in the journal Pediatrics foung that "men who recalled being frequent bullies in school were four times more likely to physically abuse their partner .... bullies are at a higher risk of bullying their own kids, losing a job, and getting involved in the criminal justice system." Domestic violence inflicts physical and emotional scars on adults, on children -- and sometimes results in homicide. The victims' suffering is too often hidden or rationalized, out of fear of retaliation.

I survived being bullied by several individuals at different times during my childhood, and attempts by one individual as an adult. I learned to defend myself -- college boxing, Army hand-to-hand combat, and later karate. I also learned to use my intelligence, both to understand those who are given to bullying behavior, and to defend myself using words. I'm at ease in most situations, but I avoid those which hold the potential for encountering insecure, aggressive individuals. But when confronted, or when witnessing someone being assaulted, I'm prepared to interrupt bullying, by whatever means is appropriate.

NUCLEAR POWER. Germany made the news in recent weeks by formally announcing plans to abandon nuclear energy completely within 11 years. Though there had been some vague movement in this direction, Germany's declaration was clearly influenced by Japan's ongoing inability to manage the Fukishima Daichi nuclear disaster. It has been my observation that the human species tends to react to crisis, rather than to think ahead and plan proactively. I applaud Germany's decision, and hope that other nations with nuclear power plants will follow suit. The risks of operating nuclear plants, and the absence of safe storage for nuclear waste products which take many generations to decay to harmlessness, are far greater than the energy benefit derived. Radioactivity will ruin your day.

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