2007-02-21. Mobbning är ett problem för skolor och arbetsplatser, antagligen större i Sverige än i andra västländer. Men en annan typ av mobbning ledd av redaktioner för tidningar, tv och radio och av bloggare har stora möjligheter att förgifta klimatet i landet, för att inte tala om hur den kan förgifta livet för en Mona Sahlin eller Carl Bildt. Jag har sett att Per Gudmundson, Susanna Popova, Göran Skytte, och Peter Wolodarsky skrivit om detta. I vinter vill jag prioritera annat författarskap, framför allt boken The Many-Splendored Society. I manuskriptet till den finns emellertid några passager som rör mobbning. Här är några "teasers":

© Hans L Zetterberg

On Modern Ostracism: Bullying (Sw "Mobbning")

Hans L Zetterberg

Från inledningen till Kapitel I:3 "Vocabularies of Motives":

When language is used to motivate people we come across two types of expressions: some serving as fuels and some serving as lubricants. The fuels appeal to strong human drives, self-survival or self-assertion of different kinds, for example, in the form of money, power, glory, sexual conquests. Lubricants are loftier, unselfish, pleasing, humane, pious, or emotional arguments, often citing the benefits for everybody and not only for the specific persons whom we wanted to influence. They usually include a great deal of spuma, magic, and defensive bilge. Lubricants, not fuels, are easily cited in public, and they dominate in publicly expressed opinions. Both scholars and laymen would do well to distinguish between fuels and lubricants in the vocabularies of motives.

The present version of this chapter deals with fuels of motivation, not lubricants. A revised version may include examples of the most common lubricants in the vocabularies of motives reviewed. They are often trivialities but may in some instances include appeals to religious, moral, or constitutional norms. For example, when mass media publicize a person as a failure or deviant, the editors and their audience are fueled by needs to restore or enhance their self-esteem and to uphold the order that upholds them. In fact, the journalists officiate in ancient and often murky rituals that they themselves rarely understand. (See the sections on ostracism and redemption below.) But the editor's acting is lubricated by appeals to constitutional liberties that let them investigate the powers that be and by references to the public's right to know.

Om exklusion i Kapitel 1:3

Anyone who wants to explore the enormous volume of misuse of language in the forms of disparaging remarks, magic and defensive bilge will find good illustrations in the verbiage of exclusion. The solid biological base of anti-discrimination is the fact that all collectivities are made up of people who do not differ in their genome, give or take a few very superficial diversities, none of which affect their language brain, or their ability to have common children. Exclusions based on biology will be more difficult to maintain as this knowledge spreads. Exclusions based on historical or contemporary acts or opinions can remain even when biological equality is accepted. And, as we have seen, there are vocabularies of motives behind inclusion and exclusion, not biological needs.

Om straff i Kapitel I:3

Why does a majority in an encounter punish a deviating minority by giving them an unfavorable evaluation? In a famous passage from the sociological literature Durkheim (1893, Chap. 12) argued that punishment had little to do with the criminal but was designed to uphold the moral order of the law-abiding population.

The Maintaining of Encounters occurs because people do not want to be traitors to those encounters that uphold their self-image. If persons in an encounter do not give an unfavorable evaluation to those who deviate from a norm in the encounter, they lower their own self-evaluation. In short, we may say that people punish the noncompliance they encounter to maintain their own evaluation as favorable.

The implications of this process are perhaps best seen if they are stated in the negative mode:

"Social Punishment"

In social encounters people tend to maintain their self-evaluation by giving negative evaluations of those who deviate from the norms in the encounters.

In other words, deviations can only be tolerated at the price of lowering the evaluations received by the compliant participants in an encounter. If a person deviates from a norm but nevertheless retains a favorable evaluation, the entire scale of evaluation is rocked so that everyone in the encounter is degraded a notch.

We see from this reasoning that tolerance of deviations is not a natural trait in man. Tolerance of deviations from beliefs, values, and norms is an acquired virtue where it exists, requiring special effort. "Instead of speaking of genuine toleration, it would be more accurate to say that in so far as Moslems are tolerant, this attitude marks a perpetual victory over themselves. By recommending toleration, the Prophet put them in a state of permanent crisis, resulting from the contradiction between the universal significance of the [Muslim] revelation and the acceptance of the plurality of religious faiths." (Levy-Strauss 1955, xx)

Unlike much in this chapter, the idea expressed in this notion of Social Punishment is not entirely obvious to common sense. It takes a special effort to realize that the core of the moral order is a certain scale of evaluation and that to uphold it we degrade deviants and subject them to exclusion.

Från avsnittet om ostracism i Kapitel I:3:

Ostracism is the banishing of somebody from an encounter, from a particular group, or, from a whole society. But the term has become more than a name for exclusion.

Ancient ostracism was a formalized practice of exclusion in the fifth century BC in Athens. On a specific occasion of a year the citizens could vote to have ostracism. Then they would write the name on a clay fragment (oyster) of any citizen they thought dictatorial or obnoxious. Provided he had received more than 6000 picks, the one who received most had to leave town. The ostracized were allowed to keep their property during their exile, and could return without stigma after ten years. It was a response to an opinion formation that defused actual or potential conflicts, not a court procedure.

In modern times ostracism has taken on another meaning. It stands for is a practice of exclusion combined with degradation. Here two different vocabularies of motive are joined into one, a very powerful brew.

Informal varieties of ostracism can be observed among children in a school or on a playground when someone is singled out and subjected to collective bullying and name calling, sometimes also physical abuse. Among adults, informal ostracism can be found at work places, markets, in associations, churches, and neighborhoods. Here the exclusion may also take the form of foul language but more frequently the form of systematically ignoring someone, sending her or him to Coventry. Also here the abuse may become physical as in racial or ethnic thrashing.

Modern ostracism is a routine in popular entertainment and in news media. In TV-shows we can follow a group in a situation with elements of stress, romance and competition. One after another of the participants is declared a failure and pushed out of the group by their own – occasionally even with secret ballots as in ancient Greek ostracism.

In news media the news often consists of reporting someone as a failure in sports, politics, business, arts, morality. Once the journalists and editors of one medium have defined a juicy failure others join in running the same news with new details. A competitive media drive gets under way and the sensibilities of the journalists are blown away. The victim is "hanged out." There is a sense of elation in the editorial offices if the hunt brings the hunted to step down from a position or go through a humiliating public excuse. And more often than not there is a sense of relief also among the general public. On closer look this is often a redemption ritual.

Victimage and Redemption

Bullying and crucifying someone in one sense or another, provides one possible resolution to negative self-images that people have accumulated by simply living in society. This process has been known at least since the sixth century BC when a part of the defeated Jewish people was forcefully taken to Babylon as slaves or guest workers. The cycle of redemption with public mobbing is not necessarily a religious phenomenon (Duncan 1962, Chapter 9). But it is hard to find a superior version of victimage than the one provided by Deutero-Isaiah:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. (Isaiah 53:2-8)

To understand redemption as a secular process one must keep in mind that a scale of evaluation, although present in every encounter, cannot be read as easily as a window thermometer: the gradations are not so concrete, and the zero point is not clearly marked. People instead arrive at their readings by invidious comparisons. Mr. X is better, worse, or equal to some comparison person. If one can lower the evaluation of a comparison person, who is far enough removed so that one does not drag oneself down in the process, one enhances one's own evaluation. This is a resort for those who have accumulated negative self-evaluations and need to return to their over-all favorable self-evaluations. They accomplish this through a rite.

A comparison person, who is "different" in some visible way, is selected and is publicly and forcibly downgraded and smeared. The net effects are that the anchorage point of the scale of evaluation moves downward; the evaluation of the participants is in this way restored to its former level; and the accumulated negative self-attitudes are canceled. The rite of redemption thus resets the gauges of evaluation in encounters to comfortable levels. The victims serve to keep our own self-evaluation intact.

In short, guilt due to disobedience of prescriptions can be atoned by victimage, by unburdening guilt on to a sacrificial victim. It is no longer you who are the deviant; it is the victim. We, the bullying failures, are still upholding the order that upholds us.

The victim who is to be sacrificed is chosen in two ways: either you find a scapegoat among the most polluted, or you find a sacrificial agent among the least polluted. At Golgotha you have both kinds of victims; Christ as the sacrificial agent surrounded by two scapegoats. In all victimage others pay for your sins.

Kenneth Burke found support for these views in the classics of world literature, ranging from Genesis and Sophocles' Antigone to Dante's Divine Comedy, Shakespeare's Othello, and Kafka's, The Castle. Being himself a poet in addition to a critic, he could summarize his theory in a poem:

Here are the steps
In the Iron Law of History
That welds Order and Sacrifice:

Order leads to Guilt
(for who can keep commandments!)
Guilt needs Redemption
(for who would not be cleansed!)
Redemption needs Redeemer
(which is to say, A Victim!)

Through Guilt
To Victimage
(hence: Cult of the Kill)

This poem is what should be left on a blackboard and in the notebooks of the students after the professor has lectured on what is known as “the cycle of redemption."  It is not a magical process, as many think.  It has its base in the social measurement of evaluation. It represents a forced change in the scale by means of which we are measured in social life. It is not an exclusive religious process as many think; it can be induced by any dramatist, professional or amateur. In Figure 1:6 there is a graphic rendering of the process among school children; it can easily be translated into mathematics if you can stand to be so cool about a tragic condition of human living.

Figure 1:6. Resetting Scales of Evaluation by Redemption Cycles.

The cycle of redemption is a way by means of which the anchorage point of a scale of evaluation can be mowed downward so that everybody except the victim feel more comfortable. A catharsis occurs. The bullying crowds end up feeling good, a fact that makes it so difficult to stop bullying.

Ostracism of the Middle Way

A halfway redemption by clean victims is provided by 'levelers.' They were originally democratically inclined English sects opposed to church hierarchies. In the process of redemption they do not push clean victims below their own station. They stop the process at the point on the scale of evaluation were they themselves are. Everybody thus becomes equal.

The ethos of levelers can be found in many places. In 1933 the Danish-Norwegian writer Aksel Sandemose wrote a novel called En flyktning krysser sit spor (A Refugee Crosses his Tracks). It takes place in the town of Jante, a thinly disguised version of Sandemose's own hometown, Nykøbing on Mors Island in Denmark. Here the Jante Law clearly dictates redemption by bringing every illuminate down to the same level.

Du skal ikke tro du er noe. (You shall not think that you are special.)
Du skal ikke tro du er like klok som oss. (You shall not think that you are as smart as us.)
Du skal ikke tro du er klokere enn oss. (You shall not think that you are smarter than us.)
Du skal ikke innbille deg du er bedre enn oss. (Don't fancy yourself as being better than us.)
Du skal ikke tro du vet mer enn oss. (You shall not think that you know more than us.)
Du skal ikke tro at du er mer enn oss. (You shall not think that you are more important than us.)
Du skal ikke tro at du duger til noe. (You shall not think that you are good at anything.)
Du skal ikke le av oss. (You shall not laugh at us.)
Du skal ikke tro at noen bryr seg om deg. (You shall not think that anyone cares about you.)
Du skal ikke tro at du kan lære oss noe. (You shall not think that you can teach us anything.)

The Jante Law is said to apply to Scandinavia during the entire transition between agricultural Gemeinschaft to an industrial Gesellschaft. In 1969 in Sweden it became a political program with Alva Myrdal's so called Equality Report presented to the Social Democratic Party Congress (A. Myrdal 1969). It argues that equality should not only be equal opportunities for all citizens but also a more equal outcome of their efforts. The statistical measures of economic equality of outcomes, the so called Gini-coefficients, show the Scandinavian countries with top scores in international comparisons.

Redemption makes everyone except the victims feel better. Also middle-way redemption, fueled by a passion for equality of outcome, results in more favorable self-images. In 1974 George Gallup conducted the first world-wide poll in which people were asked about how happy they were. The Scandinavian countries turned out to be the happiest. This finding has rather consistently turned up also in later international polls.

Surprisingly, the utilitarian goal of greatest happiness to the greatest number of people can be achieved by ostracism stopping at half-way redemption. The widespread good feelings among those who practice the Law of Jante is their kind of happiness.

Is happiness achieved by the Jante way worth it? My answer is No. The Jante Law puts a dead hand over mankind's growth into a many-splendored society in Scandinavia and elsewhere. In a many-splendored society there is much joy in becoming rich, powerful, and learned. In a many-splendored society there is excitement in finding an exquisite taste and in finding closeness to the sacred. In a many-splendored society there is a justified pride in a moral rectitude achieved as a matter of course. A many-splendored society is the very opposite of Jante.