I can't stop thinking about my personal ramifications from watching the movie Bully last week. I mentioned one sentence in my essay about it last week, but it just opened up a big can of worms.
Perhaps most recently, I was working on writing a proposal to speak about the solar system I had installed last year, but I quickly grew disinterested as I worked through my estimates of return-on-investment. But what was really stopping me was my painful "to hell with them" attitude. I've never been much of a salesman — and notoriously anti-good at marketing (owing to my desire to permit people to make an informed decision). I feel like I'm constantly fighting the status quo on big-picture issues: I talk with enough people who wring their hands over increasing energy costs and blame "the man" for ripping them off, but then fail to see they can just walk away from "the man", get a solar system, and do away with a big chunk of variability. The debate, see, gets quickly personal for me when I have a solution and they won't listen — as if they're actually calling me stupid.
Or like a few years ago when I abandoned my "mileage maximizer" project for, essentially the same kinds of reasons: "screw them." I still think that idea would work, and possibly be a significant step toward winning a 100 mpg X-prize. But there's really two outcomes: either it works, and then either I fail to market it correctly, or someone else takes it away from me and turns it into a "Bad Thing" — or it doesn't work and I'm ridiculed for being so foolish. In no way does it work out that I gain any satisfaction from it because I can't help but hear the critical voices. And the last thing I want is to give something useful to my critics.
Another thing that comes up often enough is my hair-trigger on people taking advantage of me. I probably missed out on a pretty fair number of dates in my past: if a woman was sweet to me, I always assumed she wanted something. I'd hook up her stereo, or drive her somewhere, or fix her car, or help with her assignments — all with a begrudging pleasure at the certainty that this was my lot in life. In retrospect, I can deduce that each of them probably just kinda liked me and wanted to get to know me, but even now, I can't fully internalize that was even possible. And I still can't believe it — I'm still skeptical when I meet someone who (to anyone else) clearly likes me, and the stronger the attraction, the stronger the skepticism.
And then, I take an excruciatingly long time to trust someone. And that trust can dissipate instantly if I even start to believe the relationship has any ulterior value. It's a constant struggle to balance on that razor edge: a combination of denial and suppressing evidence, and a desire to really feel trust — trust where I don't even consider that I'm being played. That's how my closest relationships work: my best approximation to what real trust must be like.
In high school (and most of college) I found my niche skating by with minimal effort. I graduated 4th in my class, and I was very pleased at that because it absolved me from the responsibilities of being valedictorian or salutatorian, particularly giving speeches. My whole point was to try to be invisible; to get attention from nobody, good or bad.
Farther back, things get more hazy, and all lumped together. Was it first grade or fifth grade that I sat in back of the bus solely to endure (unsuccessfully) the psychology cruelty of the "bad kids" who sat there? Did some kid wreck my diorama on the way to school or was that Lisa Simpson? Why do I remember so few good times on the bus? Why didn't anybody do anything about the misery I was going through?
I went into the world with an open heart. I have learned to ferociously guard that kid in me who believes people are good and they want to help others. But then I met my peers and they were sometimes cruel. And the adults in the world would say, "well that's the way the world works, Jay." They sided with the evil. And it is evil. And wrong. Being good and nice is natural to all of us, and it's the way we should all be all the time — it should be exceptional to ignore someone who is hurting. Yet it's always the story of someone who takes five minutes to help that is treated as exceptional. Well God damn it: you're all wrong.
And to me, that's the take-away from Bully: these kids who are bullied, they are the best people in the world. To coddle the bullies is tantamount to child abuse — it's teaching that cruelty is okay, that rudeness is okay, that abuse is okay, that stealing is okay, that rape is okay: they're all part of the same family, grown from the same kernel. We get the chance to build a new society every day, but we keep supporting the ugliest parts and wondering why it doesn't get better.
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