Today, February 29th 2012, is Anti-bullying day, an event observed at the Girl’s school. She, along with the rest of the school, was encouraged to wear a pink shirt to show support. It was an official school event, during an age when we’ve seen the effects of bullying carried out to their logical conclusion – in pain, agony, and death.
When I was growing up, bullies were meant to be “ignored”. That would, we were told, discourage the bully. Many of us found that idea to be pure bullshit, in a time when bullying was very much thought of as some Darwinian rite of passage by many parents, teachers, and school administrators. It was something that was a part of childhood, to be expected.
But these days, we know what a crock that is.
And where our generation of parents are often pretty uptight about a lot of things (myself very much included), at least we’ve got that right – bullying isn’t a rite of passage. It’s the road to heartache, and loss. I am glad the Girl is growing up during a time when this is the received wisdom by those in charge.
On the drive home tonight, The Girl asked about bullying. She asked what it really meant. So, I tried my best to explain that bullying must be stopped because it keeps going unless people say that it shouldn’t. That bullies are, very often, bullied themselves. If a parent bullies their child, then it’s only natural that the child will in turn be a bully, first at school, and then maybe when they become parents.
What I didn’t get into is the tendency for whole nations to become bullies. It is possible for one set of people to seek to destroy another because they had once been downtrodden themselves, crushed (just as a for-instance) by a long, expensive war that it was penalized for losing. Looking for a way to gain strength, it is possible for that nation to push that group of people, and others who disagreed with their actions, to the brink of extinction through systematic persecution, and eventually mass murder.
That’s really what we’re up against, and the reason that I feel that it is important to understand, and be able to communicate, the concept of empathy – the true antidote to bullying, or the impulse to bully.
I’m glad the Girl’s generation will not grow up ignoring it.