Bullying and survival of the so-called ‘fittest’
Nearly each time I write or speak about adolescent bullying, the leading form of child abuse in the nation, a stern group of naysayers denounce our work as fruitless because bullying is “too much a part of human nature,” a “manifestation of social instincts,” and part of “the natural selection that governs all of our lives.”
One naysayer was even more brutal. “Bullies are the strong who will always dominate the weak because that’s how natural selection works.”
They promote a dangerous ideology shared by Hitler who wrote that it is the “fundamental law of necessity” found “throughout the realm of Nature [that] existence is subject to the law of eternal struggle and strife…where the strong are always the masters of the weak and where those subject to such laws must obey them or be destroyed.”
So targets of bullying are meant to be tormented by the cruel hand of fate, like Jews, or as Hitler called it, “[C]onformity with the eternal Will that dominates the universe, to postulate the victory of the better and stronger, and the subordination of the inferior and weaker.”
Tellingly, the profile of almost all online keyboard warriors for this brutal ideology are male, presumably seeing themselves as the strong, not the weak, imbuing them with grandeur and purpose.
But are bullies really the strong that these social Darwinists celebrate, and for that matter, is the intellectual underpinning they take from Darwin even accurate?
We know that serial bullies are four to five times more likely to abuse their future spouse and children, and five to six times more likely to commit a felony by their middle twenties.
Sean Mulveyhill, now 26, was at the center of the Phoebe Prince bullying catastrophe at South Hadley High School nine years ago where Prince eventually took her own life. In March of 2019, Mulveyhill was arrested on rape allegations leveled by a student at Mount Holyoke College, where he worked as a bartender (He was arrested, along with his brother, for shoplifting on October 23, 2009).
Anyone who knows the real world of bullying isn’t shocked by this development. We expected it. But more to the point: How due run-ins with the law, a damaged reputation, and spending time in prison make you stronger, better and more powerful than others? Remember, it’s the “strong” who reproduce, seeding their superior DNA. Yet we also know that women are drawn to confident men, not abusive nor brutal ones. So exactly how do prisoners, many of whom abusive, have a greater chance at reproducing than non-prisoners? Have fun trying to explain that one to stay in goose step with Hitler’s eternal Will.
The facts create a very different narrative. Bullies, almost all of whom are arrogant and narcissistic, strut for a while, then are often cut down and sequestered through powerful confines such as laws and social norms. Aggression and brutality may equal domination, but they don’t lead to success through wealth, power or reproduction, in part because such narcissists are less successful in the long term because they set unrealistic goals, take stupid risks, and alienate others (Jean Twenge, The Narcissism Epidemic).
Charles Darwin himself wasn’t even “fit.”
He was laid up for days on end with stomach problems, headaches and heart symptoms. For the rest of his life, he was repeatedly incapacitated with episodes of stomach pains, vomiting, severe boils, palpitations, trembling and other symptoms. The source of his illness is not known, though some experts suspect it was the result of heart complications.
So how did this unfit person even survive? Through a force more powerful than natural selection: Compassion. He was nursed back to health, or degrees of health, multiple times by his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, whom he married.
This year, a list of more than one-thousand PhD scientists were publicly added to the report called “Scientific Dissent from Darwinism,” intellectuals who courageously declare their skepticism in the face of absolutist evolutionary theory. The signers hold professorships or doctorates from Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, UCLA, the University of Pennsylvania, and many other prominent institutions. Supporters of this list emphasize the world publicly because there are more scientists who would add their names, but fear it would cost them their careers. Darwin (much like Freud before him) is under fire by people far smarter than your average bear.
Bullying does not begin with anger. It begins with the Hitleresque belief that I Am Special. Above the herd. Meant to rule, superior and entitled. By promoting their populist version of survival of the fittest (a phrase first used by Herbert Spencer), they inject more justification for bullying into our already severely damaged culture. This may be one reason why we’re witnessing a rise in anti-Semitism.
A far more humane truth is before us when we consider strength and its actual relation to bullying. It’s the people who stand up to bullies who are the truly strong, those with the moral fiber and inclination to stand against this brutal form of abuse rooted in the same soil as racism, bigotry, sexual harassment and even genocide.