--by Mike Adams
After my last post on bullying, I decided to check the thesaurus for synonyms. The thesaurus always seems to make words more interesting and this occasion was no exception.
The verb “bully” is synonymous with “intimidate”, “bludgeon”, “bulldoze”, “coerce”, “harass”, “oppress”, “terrorize”, “threaten”, “torment” and “torture”.
I don't know about you, but for me that list doesn’t summon the image of a schoolyard ruffian wearing a scowl. Rather, I envision robed KKK militias closing in on besieged African -American families who dared to stand and demand their rights. I think of the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City or the acts of Ted Kaczynski. I am reminded of the current "war on women", and Bush's statement that "either you are with us or you are against us".
That list of synonyms has forced me to conceive of bullying as more than simply a traumatic experience, limited mostly to our fragile childhood and early teen years. Rather, bullying has taken on a much broader meaning. It reaches brazenly into every aspect of life, stealthily injecting malice, causing rot and decay, spreading animosity, hurt and distrust. It invades what was once vital and beautiful, causing blossom to wither and fruit to spoil.
In fact, it seems that perhaps we are just a little bit "in love" with bullying! Crazy talk you say? Doesn’t everyone hate bullying?
I don’t think so, popular TV shows like “The Apprentice” or “Survivor” actually encourage backstabbing, deceit, cruelty—bullying! Our entertainment industry thrives by actively rewarding bullies and selfishness.
It is so pervasive that I suspect bullying is woven into our very fiber as social creatures. Perhaps it’s as natural as breathing or eating. In truth, research suggests an evolutionary advantage to bullying behavior. According to Hogan Sherrow's blog article for Scientific American, “The Origins of Bullying,” animals in nature, use bullying behavior to promote group conformity and maintain a cohesive community.
But with humans with our mastery of abstract ideas, our complex use of language, our ability to remember and convey ideas long after an event has taken place. With all of that, bullying has a profound capacity for harm. It is a devastating weapon, which can permanently damage its victim.
So while we publicly disparage bullying, we are perhaps duplicitous. Our society tends to justify bullying, except we call in something else. One group might claim to be defending “traditional values” while to another it is “encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit.” In fact, if we get honest, bullying is encouraged in business, politics, religion and even the management of our children and youth.
We excuse it, saying “Boys will be boys” or “Let the kids sort out their own difficulties.” We actually encourage and reward bullying in some form in virtually every important venue of life. Then we pause, exasperated and ask why it continues to accost our children.
Here is why:
We are teaching our kids how to be bullies.
We are teaching them that it is appropriate to bully people when they hold an obviously “wrong” opinion.
We are teaching them that it is OK to bully people online, especially in political or religious discussions.
We are setting the examples that our kids follow and thus encouraging bullying in “appropriate venues,” where we call it, “lively debate” or “an impassioned view.”
We are teaching the next generation that poverty, starvation, and cruelty are impossible blights, and that anyone who tries to change this is a “doe eyed idealist.”
We are teaching our children that bullying works,that aggressive behavior is profitable and that selfish profit is respectable.
We are teaching the next generation that anyone who is different or who disagrees is fair game for ill treatment and contempt, that it is OK to try and humiliate someone if they favor a political figure we dislike or their sexual orientation is “wrong” or they want to have an abortion.
In short, we are actively teaching our children to be bullies.
So my question is whether this is truly what we want?
Are these the values we want to manifest in this world?
Do we want to perpetuate the ‘dog eat dog’ world of today, or do we want a world where people are expected to show empathy, where we truly believe and act like all people are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights?”
How do we want our children to grow up?
What kinds of people do we want them to be?
How to we want them to remember us?
How far are we willing to go in service of manifesting our vision?
How critical will we be of ourselves to get there and can we handle what we find?
Can we forgive someone who is “undeserving” in order to build the world we want?
Can our kids count on us to live the values we claim to believe in?
Can we count on ourselves to do what we know we should?
I don't have any answers or suggestions for action. I have only questions and a desire to generate thoughtful discussion and honest feedback. Thanks for reading.