I am well acquainted with but always dismayed by the human capacity for cruelty.

There have been atrocities throughout history that make me question whether humans are indeed superior to the beasts, but all of these atrocities began as small acts of malice towards vulnerable human beings.

There are many reasons why humans do this, and all of them spring from the foulest of instincts.

I have found that the exercise of power, the ability to control or intimidate someone else, is attractive to many humans. Power is not something that humans handle well, although they are quite clever in the methods they use to gain power.

Some use fear. Others use deception, confusion, and ridicule, all aiming at the vulnerability of their victims.

Sometimes people gain power through consensus, and this can be beneficial in the hands of moral men and women. Many others use force or threat of force to gain and keep control.

Human history is rife with examples of evil people who used force or threat of force to pervert the natural and happy order of things. I have seen how people have sought to gain the acquiescence or collusion of the majority to ensure that no obstacles to their power-grab remain.

Less epic are the coercive tactics that individuals use to intimidate and worry a more vulnerable person. The word “bully” seems an appropriate term.

I watched Psyche’s sisters Medea and Tanna bully her since childhood. Like so many bullies, they were motivated by Psyche’s vulnerability and by their envy. (I am amazed at how often envy is at the bottom of all the abuse.)

I saw how both sisters united to attack Psyche. I witnessed Medea’s viciousness and Tanna’s taunting. Like all bullies, they were cowards, making certain that their parents, the people with authority over them, weren’t present to witness their abuse.

That is very common. Bullies retreat before a stronger force because they thrive on the weakness of others.

As I said, envy is often at the bottom of the bullying. The bullies have identified a virtue in another that they lack. Sometimes, bullies see something in their victims that they hate in themselves.

You might say, “How, then, can a victim deal with bullies?” There are several ways, but not all of them will work with all bullies, as the situations under which bullies thrive are always different.

In Psyche’s case, her parents were aware of the bullying but did nothing about it. They were indulgent parents who wouldn’t punish their children, even when they were doing evil. As the parents of Medea and Tanna, they were obliged to discipline them, but they thought that the bullying would disappear if they paid no notice to it. Many authority figures refuse to involve themselves in bullying, which is a shame because they are the only ones who can force a change of behavior. They leave the victim to their own remedy, which can often be violent, and which often results in more innocent people being victimized.

The authority figures owe it to the victim to stop the bullying before such retaliation occurs. Otherwise, they share the blame for it.

Parents, teachers, those in authority: It is up to you to protect the meek, the weak, defenseless and friendless from the abuse of the bully.

Most of the time, the victim’s reaction fuels the bullies’ torment. The bully wants to see the victim in pain and suffering. An unexpected reaction might be disarming. If Psyche had laughed at her sisters, the sport would have lost its zest and the bullying might have stopped. Psyche’s despondency, her feelings of inferiority, her inexplicable desire to have their approval, all fed her sisters’ malice.

Sometimes the victims find friends who will stand with them against the bully. There is strength in numbers, and there is strength in friendship. Bullies crumble before superior strength because they are inherently cowards, tormenting the weak and defenseless.

There are occasions when a victim turns against the bully and gives him a beating. As much as I abhor violence, self-defense is necessary for survival. Since the violence is directed at the bully himself, there would be few who would disapprove of it. Violence, though, should always remain a last resort. Always.

You who enjoy the popularity of the crowd, stand up against bullying. Demonstrate your fitness of be a leader.

Entertainers, writers, artists, musicians, poets, and all those who mold opinion, make your voices heard against aggression.

And you, the countless numbers of good people who say nothing, stand with the persecuted. Bullies back down against stronger forces. Be that force, for the sake of one wounded individual.

How can we change the world? By being kind instead of vicious. If each individual made this choice, the world would be a better place.

Image attribution: Copyright : Danilo Sanino, 123ft.com, 11961246