The bizarre NFL bullying case involving Richie Incognito (the accused bully) and his alleged victim, Jonathan Martin, brings to the fore once again a subject I have been spotlighting for years. I don’t know the facts in the Miami Dolphins’ case, but I have long been outspoken in my belief that bullying is the most prevalent form of terrorism in America (and, arguably, the entire world).
When people refer to terrorism, they normally mean radical Islamic violence. But violence and, much more prevalent, the threat of violence, is just another form of bullying. The fact is that bullying is one of mankind’s worst flaws, and it will always be with us.
As I detailed in my thirty-four-part series titled “The Cho Factor,” a majority of kids who have used deadly force against students and teachers have been victims of bullying. The use of violence is totally unacceptable, but the fact is that bullying is what brought many of these kids to a point in their lives where they either no longer wanted to live or they had become so angry that they wanted to harm others — or both.
Like radical Islamic terrorism, however, school shootings are part of a much broader issue, one that carries into adult life. Power and status are the tools of choice for adult bullies. There isn’t a person reading this article who isn’t familiar with how these tools are used.
The cliché “keeping up with the Joneses” is what status is all about. It’s an invisible form of bullying, one that relies heavily on exclusion. Whether it’s Kansas City or Beverly Hills, Little Rock or Manhattan, invisible bullying is a way of life.
Growing up in a typical, medium-sized Midwestern town, I witnessed the exclusion game being played day in and day out. It was very intimidating and quite nauseating to observe.
That said, I suspect that there’s a great deal of bullying that goes on in the NFL, just as there is in every walk of life. But in the Martin-Incognito case, the charge is that the bullying was not invisible.
Rather, it was outward verbal bullying, the kind that is so prevalent in grades K-12. And, as untold millions of kids have discovered, verbal bullying can be worse than physical bullying, sometimes resulting in a child’s suicide (Florida twelve-year-old Rebecca Sedwick being a recent example of this tragic fate).
Again, I don’t know the facts in the Martin-Incognito case, but I do know that the jockocracy, as Howard Cosell used to refer to it, is a lead dog when it comes to bullying. And, just as teachers, either through apathy or out-and-out encouragement, are so often the enablers of class bullies, so, too, are coaches enablers of bullies on sports teams.
The nature of the coaching profession tends to produce a macho, in-your-face attitude, and anyone who has played sports as a kid, or has children who have played Little League or youth basketball or soccer, knows just how nasty coaches can be toward kids who just want to have some fun playing sports.
And at the college and professional level, it only gets worse. Most recently, Rutgers University fired head basketball coach Mike Rice for physically and verbally abusing his players. No doubt Bobby Knight was his idol.
The unwritten rules of bullying are that the victim must either punch his tormentor in the face or shut up and suffer. Yep, that’s exactly what a lot of people are saying — that Jonathan Martin should have either “taken the abuse” or punched his teammate, Richie Incognito, in the face. What an admirable, civilized response that would have been.
What this bizarre situation has called attention to is the fact that adult bullies are everywhere — employers, supervisors, coworkers, friends … it can be just about anyone. Politicians and bureaucrats, of course, bully all of us virtually every day.
Last week I was even bullied — literally — by a maintenance guy who came out to fix our furnace. I asked him a couple of questions about the repair work he was doing for us, and he responded to me as though I were an ignorant child. I shuttered to think how he must treat his children.
No doubt about it, the human race is saturated with bullies — nasty people who cause others grief and stress, who make them feel insecure or inadequate, who fill their hearts with hate and overwhelm their brains with anger. In modern parlance, such degenerates are commonly referred to as “dicks.”
So what’s best way to deal with dicks? Through the years, I have perfected a simple strategy that I like to refer to as the “HIP” Solution: Humor – Ignore – Part ways. That’s right, just humor any miscreant that crosses your path, then ignore him from that point on, and, if that doesn’t solve the problem, part ways with him — permanently.
I don’t like to be around nasty people. I don’t like to be around irrational people. I don’t like to be around confrontational people. I don’t like to be around petty people. I don’t like to be around dishonest people. Plain and simple, I don’t like to be around dicks.
That said, I should point out that one of the questions I have been repeatedly asked over the years is, “What can you do if an annoying person is your coworker or employer?” I acknowledge that it’s easier said than done, but I still believe that the best solution is to implement the HIP Solution.
Humoring takes a lot of mental effort if you have to do it every day. And ignoring someone who works next to you — or, worse, someone from whom you have to take orders — is not really practical.
Which is why, in extreme bullying situations, you have to man up — not by punching someone out, but by having the courage to part ways with him. As I said recently on my Facebook page, the only power people have over you is the power you give them, and you can withdraw permission at any time.
Whether it’s a marriage, a job, or the city you live in, you should never use it as an excuse to stay put and be miserable. A miserable life is a wasted life. If Jonathan’s Martin’s perception was that he was being abused, and if humoring and ignoring his abuser was not working, I admire him for having the courage to make his exit.
I say courage, because not many players would walk away from a pro football career. My guess is that he’ll be back — on some team — but he was willing to risk being blackballed from the sport to rid himself of the mental stress he was enduring.
Now, the question you might want to ponder is whether or not, at the moment of truth, you, too, would have the courage to risk everything to keep your dignity. The answer is important because it goes a long way toward determining how your life plays out. If you’re focused on getting somewhere in life, you don’t have time to deal with dicks.