31 March 2010

Lord of the Flies

I've always loathed bullies. Hated their filthy, grisly guts.

Reading this article about that girl, pretty, foreign, driven to suicide by her fellow students in high school made me want to tear my teeth out by their roots.

The authorities are trying to prosecute the evil bitches that set upon her. I don't see much hope for that, but maybe justice could be done.

The American  high school, like the English high school and like the German high school is an unbelievably barbaric place. (I mention the English and German schools because they're well documented in literature; try Young Törless, by Robert Musil, or Roald Dahl's memoirs, for starters.).

It's a central and disgusting lie that high school is some quirky, charming way station where prettily confused boys and girls put up with little struggles and emerge, unscathed but wiser, into the bright dawn of college.

It's a savage hell-hole, and, from what I can tell, always was. Nearly everyone who writes about the atrocity at Columbine or thinks about it seems to miss that fundamental fact, because it's too painful to admit, to remember or confront. Of course, high school is inflicted on you when you are the most vulnerable, open, defenseless and least able to protect yourself.

A smart friend of mine said of Columbine that they'd fucked with The Wrong Two Guys. And Werner Herzog, up in Telluride also said one day that he regretted never going back to his high school and burning in down. They both have a point, although so many innocents were caught in the crossfire; Klebold and Harris became über-bullies themselves.

I was lucky in many ways. For one, I have a vicious temper, an overwhelming and sudden rage that can take me by the scruff of the neck and make me recklessly violent. This trait helped me in elementary school and middle school. Some bully would get on my case. I'd ignore it for as long as I could. I'd dwell in fear of meeting that ravening little motherfucker.

One day, inevitably, I'd snap and lay into the bastard for all I was worth. They were nearly always bigger than me, so when hauled off to the principal's office, or separated by some teacher or some Responsible Adult, I'd get off fairly lightly.

In high school, I had a relatively easier time. I was often called a faggot, though, because I was in drama and not a jock. By then, however, our tribes had formed up, and I had a certain immunity. Plus, my willingness to mix it up stood me in good stead. But it still fucks you up, and no matter what any body says or how tough you try to be, it leaves a mark.

I consider myself particularly lucky to be a male in all this. With men, it was in the open, and the knuckle-dragging gorillas who tried to torment me never had the guile to pretend to be my friend. With girls, it's much worse.

And, I want to emphasize this: my experience is in no way special, or uniquely horrible or even very remarkable. It was, and is, simply normal -- better than normal, probably.

Overall, I return to the novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding. We had it assigned to us in eighth grade, and we -- at least, my friends and I -- understood it immediately, even if some of the symbolism had to be explained. I'm thinking Golding really deserved that Nobel after all, for creating such a powerful fable, one that has the bones and stone of a Greek myth. We also watched the film by the genius, Peter Brook. Later, I would learn that Brook took his cast of boys off to an island, so that they would experience the same reversion to savagery and cruelty that the characters in the book did.

It only took a few days for the boys to turn into bloodthirsty little maniacs -- much more quickly than Brooks had anticipated. He had to quickly call off the experiment and start shooting the movie, with adults firmly supervising.

Not surprising when you examine the situation.

I'd happily hang each one of those vicious animals who worked that girl over.

Of course I would.

I'm only human.

1 comment:

  1. in Joss Whedon's "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," the hellmouth sits under the high school. Seems appropriate.