Monday, October 15, 2012

My thoughts on bullying

With all this talk about bullying in school as the result of Amanda Todd committing suicide last week, I thought I would wade into the discussion.

I was the victim of bullying in school.  I have a weird last name.  I was skinny, pimply and geeky looking. I was one of the kids who focused on school rather than goofing off and that's a great way to become a target with the jock / hooligan crowd. I managed to survive.  It helped that I was able to fight fire with fire.  I was befriended by one of the biggest guys in school from the hooligan crowd and that pretty much spelled the end of any more bullying against me.  So, I consider myself very lucky.  I don't know how my life would have changed had I not established this form of protection.

Interestingly, once I joined the military, there was no bullying. I believe it's partly due to the fact that everyone who joins is reduced to a cog in a machine as part of basic training. You're made to think like a group and the group only functions when everyone is an equal part. Potential bullying targets are in effect weeded out by the end of basic training, so what you're left with is a cohesive culture of equal members.

As is always the case, that well publicized suicide has created a reactionary discussion on the topic with our Federal government's even going so far as two discuss bullying in parliament.  I believe this to be an absolute waste of time considering the fact that we already have established laws on the books regarding harassment.

Let's face it, bullying is just a form of harassment.  Bullying is something that not only occurs at school, it happens at home and in the workplace.  My personal opinion has always been that bullying and any other type of harassment for that matter will only subside once there is a cultural shift.  In today's culture, bullying and other forms of harassment are still considered by some elements of society as normal behaviour that must be endured as a part of life.  People who believe this will say things like, "we had bullying in school and everybody survived".  Or, "if you can't handle bullying, how are you going to handle all of life's other pressures".

This is just a perpetuation of the ridiculous logic that if something has been a tradition before there is no need to change it, even if some people think it's wrong.  Most of us realize that this way of thinking is outdated and that we are perfectly within our rights to offer changes in the way we do things and to move the bar dividing what's right and what's wrong.  Bullying is wrong, not because we can't handle it, but because of the value it promotes.  Namely, if bullying is to be permitted, it suggests that it is OK to get what you want at all costs.  What the bully wants is power, respect and acknowledgement.  The bully will acquire these things through violence, intimidation, belittling the victim and so on.  Bullying is defeated when the people decide together that this behaviour is completely unacceptable.  The moment it occurs, it is reported.  It is dealt with swiftly, fairly and thoroughly.  The bully is quickly instructed that their behaviour is unacceptable and the consequences are measured out immediately.  In this type of environment, the bully doesn't stand a chance.  This culture applies not only to school, but also in the home and in the workplace.  If everyone does not buy into this culture, bullying will thrive.

There's really not much more to say.  If we want bullying to stop, we have to band together as a society and stop it.  No new laws are needed.  You can't legislate behavioural change.  You have to cultivate it from the inside.

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