The world is unfortunately filled with unkind people. And sometimes, those people choose to bully others. Sometimes this is mean kids on the playground, sometimes its politicians. Either way, the non aggression principle can teach us a lot about dealing with bullies.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi Connor.
Connor: Hey Brittany.
Brittany: So, you know, like many Americans, I have been obsessed with the show Cobra Kai on Netflix. I don’t know if you and your family have been watching it. I don’t know if it’s for your kid. I don’t know what age group are watching Cobra Kai, but I know I’m
Watching Cobra Kai.
Connor: Probably, teens. It’s kinda PG 13 a little bit, right?
Brittany: There’s, that’s what I thought. There’s some things in there.
Connor: Yeah, there’s some things in there. More for the older kids and adults maybe.
Brittany: But for anyone who has been watching, and especially for parents who loved the movie Karate Kid growing up, like my family did, Cobra Kai is a continuation of that story. And you know, Daniel’s son is in there and he’s, he’s actually, he’s kind of the bad guy in this. And then you have the old bad guy Johnny, who kind of becomes like an anti-hero in a way. Yeah. But they’re grown up now. They’re in their fifties, I think, and they’re now competing for students to teach at their, do I think it’s called a Dojo when it’s crying Dojo? That’s right. I was gonna say, if I mixed up my martial arts, I apologize. But, so this is one of my favorite shows right now. Not only because it’s really nostalgic and fun for me to watch, but it also has a lot of really important themes that I think kids today would be really served to learn. And one of them is combating bullies. And I, don’t have kids, but I do remember that when my little brother was in the third grade and he’s 23 now, so that was a, while ago, he had a bully at school who was just tormenting him every single day. And one day he had the courage to stand up to this bully, not with violence, just with his words. And the school called my parents and told him that my brother was getting in trouble for standing up to bullies. And this had to have been, this had to have been like 2012, 2000 or maybe 2011. But they did. So my parents were shocked cuz they’re thinking like, wait, what? Like, our sons stood up with words. He didn’t fight anybody. Why is our son getting in trouble? Hmm. And when they asked, they said they had a policy that you don’t stand up to bullies. You were supposed to go to a teacher and have the teacher deal with it. And this is nuts to me for a lot of reasons. first, as a teacher, we never did that as a teacher at the school I worked at, we had a rule that kids needed to work it out with each other. They only came to us if violence was happening. If somebody punched you in the face, you come to us, right? Because then we needed to intervene. But it was a very, a big principal at our school that kids were supposed to learn how to deal with their problems without having to seek authority figures. And that’s one reason I taught at the school. I really liked that. And I think, it kind of hits on a bigger problem, which is that we’re not teaching kids how to deal with bullies. And bullies don’t really go away when you’re an adult. It’s just kind of a different kind of bully. In fact, sometimes the government can be the ultimate bully. Right. So, all the time. So, Connor, your kids are homeschooled, but do you have any experiences with bullies or being bullied as a kid?
Connor: Oh boy. Yeah. So I think I’ve shared before, I, was public schooled, you know, my whole life. And, my mom apologizes to this day. She wishes that she could have homeschooled me. But growing up in California in the eighties and nineties, that just wasn’t really a thing. And, so I was public school the whole time. Now I have kind of a little bit interesting story in the sense that I was very short. Like very, very, short.
Brittany: And you’re not short now, right? You’re, you’re average height
Connor: Now I’m, pretty average right now. I’m like five 11. in fact, my wife would always tease me, cuz I always say I’m five 11. And she’s like, no, you’re barely over five 10. She, my wife’s about an inch taller than me, really? And so our whole, our whole marriage, she’s all, you know, I’ve always been, oh, I’m five 11. She’s like, no, you’re not. I’m five 11. Well, about a year ago we stood back to back, and like I’ve apparently grown a little bit since we’ve been married, you know, 10 or 11 years where we’re now actually the same height either than, or maybe she’s short, I dunno, But, growing up I was very short. I hit puberty very late. I was maybe like 16 and a half or something like that. And I remember distinctly this memory where I was in a marching band. We’ve talked about how I was in like aka band, a great saxophone. And every year for marching band, they would take the kind of the big group picture, right? Everyone’s up on the stands. You’ve got your uniform with your little feathery hats on, you know, and, your instruments. And so the way they would do it is they would line up everyone by height and because they’d have all the tall people go in first in the back, and then the next tallest people all the way to the short people in the front. And so you’d have this big line of, I don’t know, like 150 kids or whatever. And the last like 20 or 30 kids in line were all girls. And then it was me. I was second to last, you know, I was just, I was short. And so I got picked on a lot. I had.
Brittany: That’s a public school for you, right? Like it’s almost like they were asking for you to be bullied.
Connor: That’s exactly right. Like put like, and, I thought it was bad then. I think in a lot of ways it’s worse now, but Oh yeah, I was, I was stuffed in trash cans. Like one guy like lifted me up some kind of jock, you know, athlete just lifted me up and put, me in a trashcan. I was made fun of a lot. I had people like shoving me and I, never got into a fight perhaps cuz everyone knew I would lose you know? So like I wasn’t a threat to anyone in that way. It was more just being picked on. But, you know, I was never ever really able to kind of stand up for myself. I kind of just took it. I didn’t have a Cobra Kai you know, I didn’t, do any karate. But what I like about, you know, this conversation, we’re gonna have like think of Cobra Kai and, we won’t share, you know, any spoilers for those who haven’t seen it, but enough where we can talk about it. Like plot is centered around this kid who’s being bullied. Like, that’s how the show starts. And, this kid, you know, instead of just lying down and taking it, he decides to defend himself. Now, this isn’t something that I did, I, you know, I maybe could have and should have, but, I didn’t. But here’s this kid and he decides, you know, I’m not gonna take this anymore. And you know, we’re not advocating here for like beating other people up if you, you know, if they bother you or whatever. But we’ve talked about things like, for example, the non-aggression principle and how that can be a guide for you in dealing with people who hurt you, right? The non-aggression is when you’re, you know, hurting someone else basically is a simple way of saying it. So the non-aggression principle is don’t beat up other people, don’t harm other people. And, what it really means, as a reminder, the non-aggression principle is that you should never initiate aggression. In other words, you should never start it. You should never be the one to begin it. But the non-aggression principle doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t defend yourself, right? Like if, if someone is trying to hurt you, non-aggression principle doesn’t say, oh, just stand there silently and take it. Let them punch you or let them, you know, hold a gun to your head or anything Crazy non-aggression principle just means you shouldn’t be the one to start it. But if someone else, you know, starts it first and they’re like part in the process of harming you, obviously, totally you can defend yourself. But what’s interesting is Cobra Kai, for those who remember watching Karate Kid or if you’ve seen the show recently, they have this motto, do you remember what it is, Brittany?
Brittany: Yeah. It’s strike first strike hard. No mercy.
Connor: No mercy, right? And so obviously like strike first, that’s a problem. I think that problem.
Brittany: Yes, that’s a problem.
Connor: you know, that violates the non-aggression principle. And so Cobra Kai’s philosophy, versus the, what’s the other one called? I Mr. Miyagi Do.
Brittany: Miyagi Do, it’s not as a creative as a name, but you know, yeah,
Connor: and from Miyagi Do is very much like non-aggression principle. Their philosophy, the karate kids, you know, is, you defend yourself. You’re just there to kind of, stand up against bullies, but never be the bully. But Cobra Kai, you know, strike first, strike hard. That’s more like, you know, we’re going to we’re gonna, it’s like preventive action, right? In, war around the world. There’s this idea of preventive war and the people who believe in preventive war think that they’re almost like fortune tellers, right? Like, hey, I think those people are gonna attack us and so we’re gonna go attack them first.
Brittany: They’re gonna strike first. That’s exactly what it is. It’s strike first strike hard. No mercy.
Connor: Exactly. Yeah. It’s the cobra that’s actually kinda a good article idea right there, right, the Cobra Kai foreign policy, you know, but there are a lot of people in the government who think that to stop war or to keep the peace, we should do preventive war. We should attack them first. We should go in and we should, you know, shut off their electricity or we should freeze their bank account
Brittany: Sanctions, you know, we stop medicine and like medical supplies from getting to them.
Connor: Exactly right. Or actually sending troops, drones is a common one, right? We’re gonna have drones, dropping bombs to destroy, you know, this factory because we don’t want them building bombs that they use against us. The problem is, as you well know, Brittany is the country that we’re doing that to, they see those as acts of aggression.
Brittany: And they are, I mean that’s exactly what they are.
Connor: Exactly. So then they want to defend themselves or retaliate and kind of get revenge. And so then it creates this cycle of blowback. This is a term we talk about in the Tuttletwins in the golden rule, where you just get into this constant cycle of blowback. So that if that country then attacks, let’s say America in, this example, because they feel justified cuz a drone just killed a bunch of their people or destroyed their supplies, right? So they feel justified then and attacking. Well then people here in America say, oh, that’s terrorism, right? That’s an attack that we need to respond to. And then it just goes around and around around.
Brittany: It’s only terrorism if we don’t do it.
Connor: Exactly. And so this is like the Cobra Kai approach. Strike hard, strike first. But I think, you know, this has like a total conflict with the non-aggression principle. And for that reason, we need to think long and hard about, like, we’ve been talking about foreign policy here for a second, but taking it back to bullying. I guess lemme throw it to you, Brittany, How does, how does the non-aggression principle relate to bullying? What should kids do if they’re, you know, being bullied, but we’ve got this non-aggression principle as well.
Brittany: That’s exactly right. And we’re not, you know, just to clarify to the parents out there, we’re not saying if somebody hurts your feelings, go punch them in the face that that’s not gonna solve anything as Connor just kind of explained. And it’s not gonna help us, you know, live in a peaceful society either. So it’s kind of like, what do you do? Right? And I think the first thing you do is try to use your words. I mean words are very powerful, but that doesn’t always work. And that’s where I think the non-aggression principle comes in. Now, Connor, obviously you talked about when you were bullied, you didn’t push back, but a lot of times when you do push back against a bully, after they’ve aggressed against you, you’ll find that your bully isn’t gonna mess with you anymore. And again, not encouraging you to go out and get in a fight, but you do have the right to defend yourself. And I think that’s an important part because a lot of schools are not only not teaching that they’re teaching kids to become victims. And we’ve talked about in a, you know, previous episode about whether or not you have the right to not be offended. Like this actually stems, it’s all connected to me because you’re, creating a victim mentality and then they grow up and let’s say they encounter speech they don’t like, and in college then they think they have the right to cancel you, which we’ve talked about in another episode as well. And so it all stems from this, you know, what do you do if you are being bullied? And I think the biggest thing you can do is stand up for yourself. And there’s the Karens, we’ve used that term before of the world who would tell you, like, just go tell a teacher. There is nothing worse. And I can tell you this from experience than tattling on a bully to a teacher because you’re just gonna make the bully more angry.
Connor: Yeah. no, I have seen that.
Brittany: Right? And I think they also translates into adult world, you know, people like to just call the police on people. What was it? what did they call her barbecue? Becky? Was that her name? I can’t remember. Yeah. But there was the lady who called the cops on people having a barbecue because they weren’t following some law or something. Like you don’t wanna become that person either. So I think the most powerful first step is to use your words, see if you can do it with words and if not, you know, that’s kind of where the non-aggression principle comes into play.
Connor: And, I think what’s important here is dovetailing off of what you’re saying, Brittany, with using your words, a related way I think of saying that is communicate directly. And, what I mean by that is I have a, we used to live in a different neighborhood and we had a neighbor who did not like their next-door neighbor’s weeds were growing kind of too tall. Like they weren’t taking care of their weeds very well. This neighbor, this person who lived next door to the weed house, had called the cops, literally called the police on their neighbor because they thought the weeds were too tall. Rather than going and communicating with the neighbor, like, if you wanna be a successful adult, it really comes down to learning how to communicate directly. Say what you want, say what you feel, be kind about it, be direct, you know. But if you kind.
Brittany: kinda but stern, you know, you can stand your ground.
Connor: You can be stern. Yeah. But say like, look, I think that this is a problem. I feel this way about this issue. Can we talk about this? And that is a sign of maturity, right? I think it is a sign of immaturity to immaturity to go tattle to other people. Cuz what are you trying to do? You’re trying to get other people to solve your problems. Yep. And obviously, if a bully is like legitimately harming you, like breaks your bone or you know, shoots,
Brittany: That would be when you tell a parent or something.
Connor: Absolutely. Like there, are levels I guess in all of this, right? But if it’s just like you’re being teased, like in my case I was teased a lot, I was picked on Brittany, what you just said is exactly right. Every time that I tattletale, every time that I got like a teacher involved or something like that, or like my mom would then talk to that kid’s mom like that never went well ever. Nope. Right? Because they, not only would they be upset, but then they call you a narc and a tattletale and they pick on you even more and they tell their friends and now everyone thinks you’re, you know, just a, you know,
Brittany: You’re a tattletale. Yeah, no, nobody wants to play with, that’s a really good way to not get friends very quickly.
Connor: And, what I like in, the Cobra Kai show is there’s a part, what’s the guy’s name that runs Cobra Kai? Do you remember?
Brittany: Johnny Lawson or Johnny Laws? Yeah. Yeah.
Connor: Okay. Johnny. And so Johnny, there comes a point in the show where he is being kind of encouraged to fight and oh, it’s great. He decides to stand down, he decides that he’s gonna be the more mature person and, not engage, I think even says something like it’s not worth it. And, that to me is maturity where you can deal with a bully. You can deal with someone who’s trying to cause trouble or cause you harm. And, you can just say, look, I’m not gonna engage with you. I’m gonna be the bigger person and walk away and the one or two times I can remember doing this, you know, when I was like 15 or 16 when someone would be, because what are they trying to do? They’re trying to provoke you. They’re trying to get you to lash out so they have an excuse the bear. Yeah, exactly. And so the one or two times I can remember where I just kind of walked away and, tried to ignore them and, rise above the like petty fighting it worked, right? Because they saw that they didn’t get a reaction and, and you know, and then so next time they, you know, didn’t really bother, because you know, I wasn’t gonna have any of it. I wasn’t gonna stoop to their level. So I think there’s a lot of ways, right, like, you know, using your words, communicating directly, ignoring them, but, certainly, if it does get to a level like you were well within your right to engage with them. If someone like literally is just pummeling you with your fist, I think you’re totally fine. Not only to try and, you know, defend yourself, maybe you learn some cobra kai karate between yourself, but I think you’re in your right to basically attack the other person back not to. And here’s the important part. We talk about this a little bit in the Golden Rule book, not to get revenge, not, you know, you don’t like, once the fight is over, you don’t like run after them and punch them, you know, behind their back and their head. Cuz that’s just gonna start the process over again. The point where violence is appropriate, like when you’re being attacked is just to get the other person to stop, right? Yeah. It’s like if they’re in the middle of attacking you, it’s okay, like attack them back until they, but the moment that they step back or you’ve knocked them out or other people pull, you know, the other person off of you, that’s when the fight is over. Because the moment that you then try and retaliate right then now you are the aggressor. Yep. You are escalating, you are inviting blowback. And so it’s a very careful line where if you’re being bullied, you’re being attacked, it’s okay to defend yourself, but you have to be very careful that you don’t cross that line.
Brittany: I think you’re absolutely right and I think, again, I know Cobra Kai is not for all of our listeners, it’s not for smaller kids, but, for, you know, teens and maybe parents, it really is not just a fun show. But I think there’s a lot of really good themes about, you know, maybe over-coddling kids and what, how to do deal with bullies. So I think it’s, a really fun show if, your kids are old enough.
Connor: And I think there’s a lot of lessons not only from that, but maybe this is a prompt at a minimum with the kids to go back and read the Tuttletwins. Yes. And the Golden Rule. Talk about blowback, talk about, the non-aggression principle, and what the boundaries are. Okay? Maybe you’re dealing with something in your life where you need to kind of work through some of these problems and learn about how to communicate, learn about how to deal with people. Cuz there’s gonna be bullies in your life at some point, maybe in your childhood. You know, you don’t really have ’em quite yet, but just give it a few years. You’ll find people and you’ll encounter people in your life where knowing how to be mature, knowing how to communicate and how to handle these problems, I think is gonna be key. So, absolutely. Good topic guys. Make sure you’re subscribed to the show. Please share it with others. Thanks as always for listening. We really appreciate it. And until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.