Two Girls

Two young women have been in the news of late – Amanda Todd and Malala Yousufzai.

In some ways they are both extreme examples of bullying although the cases are wildly different.

Personally I have almost no experience with bullying.  I was teased a bit as a teen for my last name.  Really it is such an easy target that it is hard to imagine not getting teased.  Mostly it was just dumb teasing.  I was often reminded of Steve Martin’s character’s reaction on Roxanne to teasing about his nose.   But I was never bullied.  I was also teased a bit for being a nerd.  But I was never bullied.  I was never scared to go to school, to walk downtown.  I didn’t dread meeting up with anyone.

I can’t imagine it getting to the point where my tormentors are out to kill me.  Or I’m willing to kill myself to avoid them.  I can only say I’m very fortunate.

I also don’t really get bullies.  I like to make fun of people, but I’m almost always careful that anything I say about someone I’d be willing to say to their face.  Sometimes I’ve offended or upset friends, family or co-workers, but it was never my intention.  I feel guilt afterwards.  I do not see the drive in trying to frighten or make someone feel bad about themselves.

But I get that sometimes people are mean.  Unintentionally, but just as often intentionally.  That which is different can be frightening and sometimes you strike out against that.  Sometimes in order to raise yourself up, you think that you need to force others down.  That is all BS, but I understand that it happens.

There is no cure for bullying.  We will always have some of it because people aren’t perfect.

I saw an episode of the Littlest Hobo last Sunday.  It shows how our reactions to bullies have changed dramatically in the past couple decades.  It was about bullying.  A young teen was new in a big city school.  The rest of the track team bullied him.  He confided in his Mom and in his track coach.  Both were sympathetic, but their advice was always to stand up to the bullies.  Prove yourself and the bullying will stop.  (This is also the plot of The Karate Kid.)

It is pretty naive.  Standing to one person might be possible, but to that one person and all their henchpeople?  That seems foolish.  And it also holds to the dictum that all cowards are bullies and a bloody nose will warn them off… not just make them up their torment.

Modern thinking calls for bystanders to not bystand, but to speak out against bullies.  And for authority to dissuade bullying harshly.  Schools cracking down and talk of legislation.

I said I can think of reasons why bullies might bully.  But I can’t understand why someone would continue to bully a person who just attempted suicide to escape bullies.  I just can’t.  You’ve moved beyond being malicious and cruel to being truly evil.  There is now a proven casual relationship to your actions and their continuance can almost assuredly have only a single result.

I just don’t understand that.

That covers off poor Amanda Todd.

The Pakistani girl is quite different.  An organized group is trying to prevent education for girls.  The Taliban are not good guys.  If this was their only fault they would not be good guys.  But I can understand why a conservative religious/political sect exists.  It is a reaction to interference by outside forces.  First the Russians in Afghanistan (when the west used to fund them) and now the influence of the west in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  I can see why people would want to join such an organization.

But when we see that they then create human rights violations and attacks against women.  How can we stand by and not interfere?  That is a twisty one.

These are not new issues.  They are old issues that never go away.  Every once in a while they get raised up publicly again.  Normally when something outrageous happens like a suicide or getting shot in the head.  There are no solutions here – at least not in the 2 + 2 = 4 sense.  I do not think we can ever eliminate bullying.  But maybe it would be possible to get such horrors down to once a decade rather than having two occur on the same week… two that have high publicity and likely many others as well. Education and positive role modelling – I think these are the keys to prevention.  These are not quick fixes though so I expect to hear more such stories before too long.

My greatest sympathies to the families and the victims.


9 thoughts on “Two Girls

  1. Suellen says:

    Oh Todd. Speaking as someone who was bullied, I completely understand the despair. I understand dreading going to school. I understand walking literally miles out of my way to get to a place I feared. Oh, I understand. I also understand why so many people, once Anonymous ‘named’ the bully have been baying for blood. I also understand why you’d want to be cruel. Power over people is a hideous drug, more addictive than cocaine. Suddenly, from being powerless, you have power over someone. Oh yeah – I know all about that too.

    I think about bullying a lot. I still wonder what I could have done differently to not be bullied. Intellectually I know that there was little I could have done but it doesn’t stop me. Still, I like to think I’ve grown into the type of person who will stand tall against bullies when I see them. I at least hope I am that good of a person.

    As far as Malala is concerned, she is what gives me hope for that region. She stood up and has paid for it yes. But the Taliban’s actions just might be the catalyst that Pakistan needs in order to wake from it torpor and live up to their potential. See – I’m an optimist too. 🙂

    Now off to reacquaint myself with the Star Wars Universe.

    • I don’t think about it too much. It is just so foreign to my experience.

      I hope my post wasn’t so naive as to be offensive. Knowing of folks suffering even in the distant past saddens me. Some wounds taken fade but stay such a part of you that even if they are ancient they’ve done so much to shape a person that they are still painful.

      About the Taliban, I’m less optimistic. My view may be narrow here, but if you give a population who feels persecuted by outside forces the ability to self govern (or stop meddling) and they often swing to the ultra conservative.

      So the question is does the average Pakistani feel independent enough already to not want to see such a swing? If not support for groups like the Taliban grows even if parts of their purview are not aligned with the majority.

      Against that desire to self-control is the acts of horror and repugnance against your own women and children.

      I hope that is enough that people stand up and say no more! I hope. But the Taliban have committed atrocities against their own women and families since the 90s. Maybe the 80s. Yet people still support them.

      • Suellen says:

        Yeah – my optimism likes to look past that. I like to think about how the Berlin wall fell and against all odds they found the Titanic.

        One thing that being bullied gave me was the great capacity for empathy and forgiveness. I guess in an odd way, I got a real gift.

  2. Bruce Shaw says:

    I was bullied as well. The school encouraged it, well beyond looking the other way. Bullies are thrill seekers. They get off on control of situations and controlling others’ feelings, especially because they have none themselves.

    • Authority figures often think that some hardship toughens a kid. And also that an out of place peg needs to be hammered down.

      Hopefully education of teachers and parents are stopping attitudes like that. And fewer children find that their bullies have real or tacit support from teachers.

    • Suellen says:

      Authority figures also see themselves as winners and therefore don’t like to associate themselves with with the ‘weak,’ or the weird.

      Sometimes I really hate people. No wonder I’m an animal person. 😉

      • The love of animals is a small and personal thing.

        Great love, in acts as well as feelings, is the realm of people.

        The cruelty of an animal is likewise impersonal. But the cruelty of people is huge and terrifying.

        Our capacity either is amazing.

  3. […] Remember my post about bullying? Two girls […]

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