Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don't Like Bullies?

So you say you don't like bullies?  That bullies ruin lives, hurt innocent people, are a pox on society?


According to Wikipedia, "Bullying is a "form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power. It can include verbal harassment (emphasis mine), physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality or ability. The "imbalance of power" may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a "target"."

While we tend to think of a bully as some kid with crooked teeth handing out swirlies, these days the bully is usually far more anonymous (and sinister).

I've been surfing the internet since it was a series of grey pages littered with blue links.  Even after all these years, however, I cannot understand what it is about the internet which makes it okay to virtually tear people apart in the manner of a rabid dog, with language filthier than a used toilet brush.  

There is no longer a need to bully face-to-face; now one may do so from the comfort of your own home and destroy, with a few keystrokes, another human being.  I love free speech, but if the attack is intended to harm or intimidate another it is not free speech. Its bullying.

Far be it from me to suggest the government do something about it.  It is not the government's role... its OURS.  Your responsibility and mine.  

So how can we address the problem?  Here are some of my ideas:

·        Don’t participate. It is easy to fall into a pack mentality when discussing a subject about which we are passionate.  Passion is good.  So use that passion to fuel your own research, and write something thoughtful and articulate rather than vulgar and dismissive. People will take notice.

·        Don’t let your kids participate in it, either.  Period.  Pay attention to what they are doing online, and the attitudes they express about others.  If they seem headed in that direction, address it immediately

·        Call out the behavior when you see it.  This is the scary part, the one that takes the courage to stand for the truth.  You may be attacked in return, and it may be that no one will step up in your defense.  That’s okay.  Even if no one says it, you will (hopefully) have caused them to think about just what is happening.

I’m not really a “let’s all just get along” sort of person, and have been known to delight in a good debate from time to time.  What disturbs me, however, is that we seem to be confusing thoughtful, civil discussion with guerilla warfare. 

I would love to hear your own experiences in regard to this sort of bullying, and your ideas as to how to we all can work together to share ideas, rather than spew hatred.  Please comment and join the discussion!

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