Friday, March 18, 2011

Fighting Back

As far as I can understand, the story goes like this:

Casey is a sixteen-year-old Australian who always got bullied. For almost two years he'd been pushed around, punched, and humiliated by others. Then one day (while someone was filming him being bullied, I can only assume for fun) he snapped and started fighting back, delivering a WWF-style body-slam to the bully and becoming an internet phenomenon in the process. As the story spreads, there's two definite camps on the issue: the internet is clearly on Casey's side, hailing him as a hero, while Child Experts are trying to stifle the story, saying it will only cause more violence.

And, honestly, I can't say that would be a bad thing.

I was a quiet kid in school. I can't say I was bullied to the extend that others sometimes are, but there are always people who get their kicks by picking on the quiet, awkward kid in the back of the class. For a long time I tried the "ignore them and they'll go away" approach. It never worked.

Now I am NOT advocating violence as the solution to problems; I just wanted to say that first. But what I AM saying is that the only thing that ever worked for me, the only way I ever succeeded in stopping a bully, was by letting him know I wouldn't take it.

I remember one kid in middle school who decided his place in life was to put others down. He went out of his way to find those he could hate on without repercussions, and I was in that group. Until one day he decides to insult me and shove me, which got me so mad I put him in a headlock and threw him on the ground. The best part? He never bothered me again.

And then there was the upperclassman in high school who thought it was all sorts of fun to pick on me. He kept it up until one day he got me so mad I punched him. The funny thing is that, after I got out of the teacher's office, he came up and apologized to me first. He said razzing people was just sort of what he did, even with his friends, and he hadn't meant to get me so mad. I can't say we became good friends after that, but we did parted on friendlier terms, and we both had a much greater respect for each other.

Now this isn't always how things go and violence is often the worst option. Sometimes, a bully really is just a kid who needs a friend himself. Not to mention the other extreme: the kids who take knives to school and treat the place like a prison yard, just hoping you'll give them a reason to shank you.

But sometimes there are people who have, through meticulous planning and careful application, placed themselves where they are in the social food-chain by putting others down. People who build up their own self esteem by taking it away from others. People who live for the victims they create out of the quiet, awkward kids in their classes. And, sometimes, the only way to stop these people is to prove you can fight back.

So will Casey's story encourage other kids to fight bullies? Probably. Will that lead to more violence, and will some of those kids lose those fights? Most likely. Terrible things happen when kids get into fights and sometimes people get seriously hurt; we should always look for the better option. But at the same time, if kids start standing up for themselves, start taking their lives into their own hands and start showing bullies they're not easy prey, is that really something we should discourage?

As a martial artist, I believe everyone needs to know how to defend themselves. Violence really should be the last resort, but the confidence you gain by knowing that last resort is strong is irreplaceable. As one New York martial arts teacher put it: it's about learning how to walk the streets with your head held high and your shoulders back. If you know how to defend yourself, you look like you can defend yourself, and people leave you alone. New York muggers generally don't go after the guy who looks like he can take out a city by himself. Like bullies, they go after the weak, the ones who won't fight back. Sometimes, the only way to avoid violence is to show the world you aren't afraid to use it.

And so, hoping I don't offend too many people with this, I guess I can say my feelings on Casey are the same as those of Penny Arcade.

Casey, what you did was wrong,

And thank you so, so much for doing it.

1 comment:

  1. I have to disagree with you, Adam. Sorry. Running should be your last resort (or ignoring in the case of school bullying). You shouldn't be waiting to get mad, or until it's "really bad," or "I've just used up every other options." Something bad might have already happened. And there's the psychological effects of "oh no, I just hurt someone." The first step in protecting yourself is realizing you WILL have to hurt someone.

    In this rather interesting recording of the above event, Casey got hit several times. I can't believe it took him less then one before body slamming the stupid kid. I don't get how that could in anyway be wrong. We might think it was a good thing, but it wasn't wrong. I can't believe the poor guy got in trouble for it.

    The best way to deal with any problem should be planned, thought out, and as fast as possible. Shouldn't take a year and a half to decide you don't want to get punched.