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.