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Of Bullies and Angels

14 June 2011 5 Comments

Patricia Smith Melton

By Patricia Smith Melton
Founder, Peace X Peace
Editor, Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women

For the past weeks I, like most of us, have been watching what is happening in our world and looking for patterns.  What are the large energies colliding against each other?  Does history pivot more on the psychology of a powerful few or on the actions of many?  How do the microcosm and macrocosm of human life parallel each other?

The following suddenly came forth as a surprise — a personal perspective on the nature of bullies and somewhat on the nature of angels.  Or perhaps on people I perceive as incapable or unwilling to choose harmony and on those who strive for it.  Surely most people contain both the potential to bully and to be angels, even warrior angels in times of crisis.  I understand what is written below as expressions of pure archetypes, but archetypes help us sort out chaos — and this is a time of chaos and unknowns.

I share it as an ongoing attempt to understand more, keep courage, and do the right thing.  I value your responses, experience, insight, and input.

. . .

Of the many things I could be doing that would help the state of the world perhaps the most valuable would be to stop a rampaging bull.  Perhaps bullies in various guises are the culprits that bring all destruction other than “acts of God” upon others.

What is the nature of bullying and hubris, of stomping upon and diminishing others?

We must learn this, for in a world harmed by bullies we must know them inside and out in order to unarm them into neutrality.  It is not that bullies should be met by bullying or other forms of violence, but that those of us inclined towards harmony and justice know who we are dealing with.  Where are the leverage points that do not in themselves perpetuate more harm or violence? This is the crux and art of non-violent movements:  gathering people of conscience and justice into effective confrontation against power gone wrong without their becoming violent themselves.

Women protest in Tahrir Square, Cairo. Credit: Kodak Agfa

To know then: from its inception, bullying comes out of want and need and has at its right hand fear of even further loss.  To gain something by bullying and stomping and grabbing and justifying does not fulfill a need.  It merely shows that the need cannot be fulfilled by bullying, taking, grabbing, stomping — though it may be camouflaged through artifice, charade, and forcing people into obedience.  The parched interior may be dampened slightly, or if it is desolate, it may feel that something from elsewhere echoes slightly against its vacant walls; but it cannot be forcibly filled.  Taking only increases the gap between what is wanted and what is experienced as not there.  Taking increases the fear that more will be lost, and the realization that more has already been lost.

One does not gain love by seizing or controlling people.  One does not gain respect through self-justification and parading.  One does not gain connection to spirit by wallpapering interior caverns or nailing up exterior scaffolding.

I write in the knowledge that there are few ways to take down a rampaging bull, though it appears to be an art that many are trying to learn on the run these days.  Usually one must wait for bullies to fall, the irony being that angels fall also.  In the short term, which could be decades, it seems to be about an even battle between bullies and angels as to which is left standing at any point, the snorters or the flyers.

Except that existentially and spiritually individual bulls will fall before their individual end, and the angel may not, probably will not, in fact.  It is only when angels and bullies are pitted against each other in the world arena that they seem equally powerful.  The bull has the advantage of missiles and guns, and of laws that are only as fair as the people who made them, and systems that are only as giving as their leaders.

Bullies have immense power; they have brute force.  No inner caring for other’s pain questions their sense of entitlement.  No inconvenient interior standards register ethics or elicit compassion.  This is aside from the pity they feel for themselves because they have not been provided enough fodder to fill the empty place inside, but that surely is someone else’s fault.

Angels have immense power also; they can move things.  Hearts and minds, for example.  But it is easier to destroy than to build.  Destroying is faster, takes less output, and changes lives the most quickly, thereby reassuring the bully of his or her existence through power over others and ability to do damage.

But for the angel, there is the power of memory — real, archetypal, communal, and imagined — that reaches across and joins people and groups.  It is an envisioning of the future through the past — the memory of love and transcendence, of health and creativity and well-being, of being fully alive, open and giving, receiving and accepting.

Skills angels lack are the ability to ambush, the ability to bludgeon, the ability to lie to themselves — because, you see, while angels believe honesty is a tenet in a Life Charter, they are not intimidated by truth.  Angels can look at their aberrations and faults and survive the tremors.  Bulls cannot.  That is, they cannot survive as happy bulls — which they never were though they could pretend to themselves they were, or that they are.  Honesty widens the gap that the bullying mind must jump across to justify its actions.

Protesters enjoy a peaceful moment as police stand by. Credit: Jason Hargrove

To look at yourself honestly requires a courage that is employed so consistently that it becomes “everyday.”  Look in the mirror.  Spinach in your teeth, bitterness in the lower left quadrant of your mind.  Same thing.  Remove each.

Bullies do not run reality checks on themselves in the mirror.  They cannot, for bullying requires the assumption of priority rights based on greater needs based on assumption of superiority.  Once this cycle starts, it is immensely difficult to stop.  If a bully sees that he or she is ordinary and has made huge mistakes, it is a psychological death.  They aren’t who they thought they were.  Blaming others for their troubles is the psychological out.

Additionally, state bullies can perceive themselves, perhaps rightly, in danger of actual death — physically or through exile, shunning and banishment, or imprisonment.  It is, after all, what they would dispense upon those who would have displeased them or were otherwise inconvenient.

Which will survive in greater abundance in the future, angels or bullies?  Is there a clue by which has survived best to our current time?  I think it’s always been mixed.

I recently saw Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog’s film of the animal drawings in the Chauvet caves in southern France.  Transcending artists existed tens of thousands of years ago among the woolly mammoths, and early bears, lions, rhinos, and horses.  Perhaps these artists were even celebrated as angels.  Or perhaps they were sacrificed as being too gifted and, being the best, were offered up to some unknown gods perceived as bullies.

But there were no human bones in the caves.  The bones of humans are spread across the surface of our modern world, humans slaughtered by bullies of war, governments, prejudice, and ignorance.  Angels take the high road because it is the only path tolerable — and it provides the best view.

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5 Comments to “Of Bullies and Angels”
  1. Mary Liepold says:

    Thank you for sharing this gorgeous gift, Patricia, and for all your gifts. You are the angel artist of Peace X Peace.

  2. Most women are Angels, for the sack of their children they stay in an abused marriage and suffer all the brutality of the father of her children. To keep this Angel alive, she need to be economically empowered to know when to walk out before it is to late for her and her children she is trying to protect.

    Bullies can only be tamed by a humble and economically independent woman capable of taking immediate decision that will protect her and her children without thinking twice.

    We create angels from home so also bullies, let us make sure we take care of our girl child by supporting the entrepreneurial activities of women, who intern will tame the bullies at home.
    A peaceful family will build a peaceful nation and a peaceful world.We must be prepared to make a one time huge investment to empower women on sustainable basis if we want peace.

  3. Bonnie Atwood says:

    Thank you for a beautiful article. I was like Lucia, in that I thought of this in terms of family units first, then communities, and then nations. All the principles fit.

  4. patricia smith says:

    Dear Lucia,

    When I’ve asked women in oppressed systems throughout the world what is the one thing they most need, they say “a means to earn an income.” It comes before education,politics, or anything else. They said, “Because if women can earn an income, we can take care of the rest.”

    It holds true within oppressive systems and for the most part within destructive marriages and partnerships.

    Thank you for your insightful and valuable and true contribution to my commentary.

  5. Jo Wharton says:

    Patricia, thank you for such a powerful article. It touched my heart. You are a beautiful angel.

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