Kill ’em with kindness: cruel people and the problems with extreme solutions

Some people have been pestering me of late; how fun it is to suffer through people constantly asking you the same question, over and over and over again, knowing that it’s a question that antagonises you and makes you highly uncomfortable.

Point is, people are jerks sometimes. We all have to deal with them. Some more than most. Bullies, trolls, or just plain old nasty people – they’re got a lot of names but as far as I can see they share one thing in common – they don’t have proper respect for other people.

There’s actually a reason behind this vague moaning today – specifically, this tumblr post about the troublesome website, Return of Kings, which is basically a collection of misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic white men. They’ve been causing some fuss online lately, and my mildly insane hero Amanda Palmer was one of the many who spoke about it, here.

I suggest you read that post if this one is to make any sense from now on.

(This is just, as usual, a long diatribe in which I will try to clarify my feelings and opinion on the matter by musing on it by writing about it here.) 

I hate bullies. Mean people. Whatever. I hate them with a fiery passion, I hate them with a bitter resentment and I hate them with a stubborn determination that sometimes surprises people. I’m not entirely sure why – maybe because they made me miserable as a little kid, and effectively ruined a fantastic experience for me. Maybe because they’ve just followed me my whole life – though I don’t really have many ‘weaknesses’ as such – I’m not gay or an ethnic minority or anything like that – I just seem to be a universal target because of the way I speak and petty things like that.

Regardless of the reason, I hate them.

I’ve also had a few slightly violent habits when trying to deal with these people. Just spur of the moment kinds of things, like slapping someone who kept taking my things or hitting someone with a pen when they refused to acknowledge my existence. I know rationally that it’s awful and I need to stop and I’m making things worse but it’s always seemed like the only way to fight back.

Now, the radfems here are suggesting castration and execution. They’re probably exaggerating a bit – I doubt most of them could actually stomach killing those men. And who hasn’t thought that, some time or other? “I wish I could just kill my boss/teacher/relative/this person who is annoying me”.

But some people find even the suggestion abhorrent. I can’t say I do. Extreme, maybe – but I see their reasoning. As I read that post, I didn’t think “Wow these people are entirely ridiculous.”

Violence isn’t the answer. I accept that. But I don’t think pure love and compassion is either. Yes – it’s part of it. Maybe a big part. But people who act this wrongly – despite being shown why it’s wrong – need to be punished. You don’t make a recalcitrant kid do his homework by constantly letting him off the hook – you do it by threatening to remove his privileges unless he does it. Privileges, not rights. It’s never right to deprive someone of their human rights – I agree with this completely, as much as I wish some people could just be wiped from the face of the earth. But privileges? Oh damn, they are another thing entirely.

No, we shouldn’t be unfeeling and cold and wielding our knives. But it’s both stupid and unhelpful to just drop everything and open our arms and offer hugs to the criminals. In my opinion, anyway.

The way I see it, we need to mix the two extremes. It’s just goddamn useless to only ever have the two opposite ends of the spectrum as options – which seems to be the problem in the linked post.

The culprits have to understand why what they did was wrong before they can learn not to do it. That takes patience and love and understanding – someone taking the time to explain things, to listen to the other perspective and take it into account, to persevere and be someone genuinely trying to help. Not to convert or lecture or punish, but to help the culprit. Because as many people have said before me, if your life is based on treating other people like crap, then it can’t be very good.

Then, if or when the culprit actually understands the issue with their actions, any punishment that’s doled out will actually have an effect. I mean, think about it – if you ever got put in detention for talking in class when it wasn’t you, you’ll note that everything seemed unfair and cruel and awful. But if you actually were talking? Well, odds are you accepted the punishment, not gracefully, perhaps, but knowing deep down that you technically deserved it. Which, in my experience, makes it a bit easier to handle.

So then: attack with kindness until they see the error of their ways, then apply appropriate punishment without the overt influence of emotional responses to the culprit’s wrongdoing and attitude.

Well, that’s what I think, anyway. And yes, I know this wouldn’t work in all situations. But to me it’s damn sight better than killing either with kindness or in the name of righteousness.


5 thoughts on “Kill ’em with kindness: cruel people and the problems with extreme solutions


    I am the same way with bullies/mean people/trolls, whatever you wanna call them. Taking away privileges and actually punishing them seems like it’d be more effective for the same reasons you’ve listed.

      • It’s shocking to me that more people don’t. I think reacting with kindness kind of just reinforces the “I got away with it mentality” – taking away privileges shows that it’s serious. Don’t be a bully, or you’ll loose privileges. That’s what I’m teaching my kids and if we encounter bullies – As we already have – I’m making sure to put a stop to it. Nolan was being bullied on the bus by an older kid – Nolan’s in kindergarten. I complained to his teachers, the principle and the bus driver and said it better stop or I’ll be demanding a sit down with older kids parents. The bus driver put a stop to it the second he learned – bully kid is under constant supervision and if it happens again I’ll be demanding HE sit up front behind the bus driver. He’ll look so cool to all his friends, no? Lol.

        Maybe I’m just the exception? Sorry for the novel!

      • No, no, it’s fine! And yeah, that’s basically the crux of the matter: people can’t be allowed to think they’ve gotten away with it. It’ll just make them think they can do it again. And the idea of taking the higher ground, and letting it go and saying “It’s themselves they’re hurting,” while understandable, just gives them an opportunity to go do it to some other poor person.

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