With all the talk about teenage bullying, Amanda Todd, Facebook Canada creating campaign pages to abolish it, and the various other ways we as a society are hoping to remove bullying, this little brain of mine can’t help but feel a little bit dumbfounded by all these recent efforts.
First of all, I have to preface this letter by saying that bullying is terrible, horrible, and despicable. Feel free to use any other negative adjectives you wish to describe bullying and it’s likely you’ll be agreed with—by me especially. Yet with this mind, I do have to say this opinion, be it controversial or not. And that is bullying—whether it’s teen-related or not—is unavoidable and it’s unrealistic for us to think we as a society can remove it.
Think of a time when you were younger; if you can, when you were bullied. Whether it was elementary school, middle school, high school or maybe in the college or university institution you attended, what was that bullying experience like? If it was in public school, it was probably vicious. It could’ve been physical abuse, it could’ve been emotional, but it’s likely it was straightforward in its cruelty or malice. The bully didn’t beat around the bush to hurt you; they said the words, or they landed that punch in the most direct way to hurt you, and you felt that pain; you felt you were the target of that bully’s action.
Now, think of yourself as an adult. Think of yourself in your workplace, or your classes, with your group of friends now. Or find an adult that has an established career, has been working at their job for a while now, or even someone—it can be you—who socializes and interacts with people on a daily basis in many formats. Ask them when their last conflict with their coworkers, friends, or even employer or employees was, and it’s likely that they can tell you an incident that happened in the past couple weeks or the past month, if not more recently than that.
The story could be they felt they were the butt of a cruel joke by someone they work with, or they were disrespected in a way that bordered on humour but they couldn’t help but feel that another meaning was implied. They might tell you they had a “disagreement” with someone about a way to approach a project at work or school, their boss was unsatisfied with their work yet they did everything their boss asked, or they’re just having a good old clash of personalities with the person in the cubicle beside them. In the most basic way, they’ll tell you they feel like they’re being targeted or victimized. Bullied.
Mind you, these situations are different, yet you can’t help but admit a similarity in these situations—that being that the “victim” is feeling exactly that: victimized.
While the method of cruelty changes when we get older—the “bully” might choose to hurt you with something that is subtle, yet stings just as much as being pushed down on the playground—we can’t help but see there isn’t that much of a difference and bullying still continues when we get older. We might even find ourselves as adults using the same lines our mothers or parents gave us when we were younger to defend against these bullies: “They’re just jealous of me”, “They’re just overcompensating for something they don’t have”, “They’re just having a bad day”, “They clearly have mental issues that I’m unfortunately being the target of”…
Which leads me to say something that sounds extreme, but actually really isn’t: that being people can be inherently mean—even the sweetest of people—when they want to be. There are also sometimes just people who never grow up from being the recess bully, and this state of mind follows them all the way to adulthood. Sometimes this attitude helps them attain their current careers, goals, and dreams, but it also means that this attitude will result in their coworkers, friends, and family even sometimes feeling like their hiding in the bathroom stall all over again.
And this is when I’ll ask something pessimistic yet true: How can we stop teen bullying when we can’t even stop regular bullying? How can we stop bullying when we fail to recognize how cemented bullying is in our society? I think when we look at the issue, we’re unfortunately looking at it as a one-dimensional issue, when really, we should see bullying in all its forms if we really want to get rid of it.
Bullying happens. And while news outlets and media will focus on bullying through its most extreme forms, no one seems to talk about that it happens in less extreme forms as well.
It’s these less extreme forms that, again, I feel show how difficult it would be to abolish something like bullying. When the British Colombia premier Christy Clark said that bullying can no longer be dismissed as part of growing up, she’s right—but it’s hard to dismiss that bullying or being bullied is part of being human.
I feel this opinion seems extreme or maybe dreadfully pessimistic; maybe it’s not impossible to end bullying. But I can no longer go around thinking campaigns, conferences, or news stories about anti-bullying will help when we as a society have mean behaviour engrained in us.
I hope I am wrong about this, and this opinion remains an opinion. However, if people disagree with my realistic view on bullying, I wonder how they’ll react. Will I be targetted, bullied, and victimized for having such little faith in our society to change? Will I be bullied for being against anti-bullying campaigns?
That might be something I wouldn’t mind seeing—if not to be right, then at least to enjoy the irony.