Friday, March 16, 2012

The Bullying Curse

At least in Australia (and probably elsewhere), today has been designated as one devoted to awareness of bullying. On the news this morning, there was a lot of attention paid to the issue of both physical and cyber bullying in schools and among youth in general. This is a good thing.

But I wonder if it doesn't miss the point.

Children absorb lessons from role models - that is the message clearly and consistently given by educators, psychologists, and everyone else concerned about society. If this is so (and I believe it is) then surely the place to start in combating bullying is with the role models.

When I read a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch TV I am constantly aware of bullying by those with power and authority. Some examples:
  • Politicians bullying others through sarcasm, denigration, and outright abuse that is supported by constantly seeking to portray their opponents in a negative light
  • Mining magnates bullying the country by lobbying and threatened legal action against any attempts to more equally distribute the mining wealth
  • Australia's richest person threatening her children with bankruptcy and enlisting the support of prominent politicians in order to maintain control of huge trust funds then using the legal process to try and ensure the Australian public is kept ignorant of what is going on
  • Business leaders using the threat of moving jobs off-shore unless employees agree to reductions in working conditions and lower remuneration increases while their own salaries and their organisation's profits soar
  • Union leaders threatening industrial action quite early in negotiations unless they get what they demand for their members
  • Radio hosts and journalists who push their own agendas then ridicule or denigrate those who seek to challenge what is presented

I suggest that its no wonder we find bullying in schools when the rich and powerful in society are so blatant in their own bullying while decrying that which occurs amongst children and young people.

Bullying is bullying is bullying - no matter who does it, where they do it, or the guise under which they do it.

When I was a child my parents taught me that bullying always indicated insecurity and feelings of inadequacy in a person. "Be sorry for the bully," I was told, "they're the person with problems. They are so obsessed with themselves that, no matter what their pretence, they have no real interest in others - or in the truth."

Its not easy to ignore the bullies. Like most other empty vessels, they make the most noise. But we need to be very careful about encouraging them.

Perhaps all forms of media should have a bullying scale that they present alongside all reports that show words and/or actions of those who purport to be role models. A type of "name and shame" to combat bullying everywhere.

What do you think? Please post your comments below.

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