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I was bullied as a kid, from 5th grade through 10th grade (when I demonstrated a non-harmful tae kwon do technique on a bully in front of fellow students). Reasons for bullying:
- I was the new kid in town (military dad).
- I was "the smart kid."
- I studied science and read SF outside of class (nerd), and programmed computers before they were ubiquitous (geek).
- I was bigger than most of my classmates, but took to heart the Christian and parental "turn the other cheek" business. That is, I was an easy target that wouldn't hurt them back.
Frickin' late-elementary and junior-high-age kids are tiny monsters, uncivilized primates. Have you read Lord of the Flies? I swear, if it weren't for teachers and parents, kids would die like flies during that period. All the more reason they should all read SF: Get them on the path to enlightenment early.
Yes, I was harmed by this for a long time, and indeed still can feel the emotional pain (20+ years later!), but I actually think the emotional and physical torture helped make me a better person in the long run. Would I be as empathetic or sympathetic without having gone through all that? Would I have befriended the coolest nerd-geek people? Would I write the stuff I do today? Dunno. But I do know that child-on-child torture is a strangely American hobby, and likely the root of much of our citizens' fear-capacity that politicians love to use to keep us in line.
So is it institutionalized for that purpose? Helps promote sheep mentality? Helps thin the herd of nonconformists? Hmmm. I know it only pushed me toward anti-conformity, so if that's the case, it dun backfired with me!