The Culture of Bullying
Oct 14, 2010 by Lisa A Kramer
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"][/caption]
The word echoes through the air these days. Every day you hear a new story or of a new death. For me, recently, each day brings a new awareness about the pervasiveness of this issue.
I want to do something about it.
This week I conducted a workshop at a nearby high school on Performance Art. While Performance Art is not exactly my favorite type of theater, I think it is an interesting thing to introduce to high school students as it provides them an outlet to explore issues using art, theater, music, and other things to express themselves. I introduce the techniques by using a piece of literature or poetry (for this workshop I used "Ozymandias"). I also brought an extra poem to help out, this time one on bullying that I found on a WordPress blog http://bullypoems.wordpress.com/ (thank you to that blog writer).
The students were then given an assignment to create their own piece of performance art, with the only restrictions being that they respect each other and respect school rules. The results were interesting, with topics ranging from family relationships to feeling stressed about choices they needed to make in life. The majority of them, however, were about bullying.
Now, maybe that was a reaction to the poem I read them, but I think it goes deeper than that. In our discussions afterwards most of the students acknowledged that there is bullying at their school. Some of them hesitantly acknowledged to being victims.
More disturbing to me, however, were the number of people who acknowledged being witnesses to bullying, but who simply walked away.
Coincidentally, last night I was asked to adjudicate a performance at another area high school. The play they put on was Bang Bang Your Dead! by William Mastrosimone which explores the issue of bullying from the perspective of a boy who shoots 7 people (5 students and his parents). Not a light evening of theater, that's for sure. There were two talk-backs after the performance, one for the audience and one between the adjudicators and the cast. Both were revealing.
The first showed that the parents and community are aware of the problem but feeling at a loss as to what can be done.
The second revealed what the kids had learned from this process. Many of them researched and became aware of the amount of bullying that exists in the world, and in their more immediate world. BUT, and this is a disturbing but, their understanding and new knowledge did not promote action. They shared a story that, after a school viewing of the show, some freshman started teasing and throwing food at the lead (the person who played the killer). Rather than saying something, he walked away!
How do we fix this? I know it is scary to confront bullies. I recognize that sometimes it is easier to hide our eyes and pretend we don't see what is in front of us. But that way lies Columbine. That way lies 9/11. That way lies the Holocaust.
Now, I'm sure somebody will object to me connecting bullying with 9/11 or with the Holocaust, but what is bullying if not a form of intolerance? It is about someone showing power over weakness, or trying to pretend to have power by making others feel weak. In a way, bullying is human nature, in the sense of survival of the fittest. The strong win and the weak are destroyed. Bullying is not something that occurs just between children in school, it is just that in some ways adult bullying is more subtle. That doesn't make it any less dangerous however.
If bullying is human nature, does that mean there is no hope of change? It has become crucial for us, as a society, to break free of this negative quality of human nature. We need to learn to respect and value diversity, otherwise there will never be an end to violence, hatred, death (by violence) and bullying.
I hope we can do it.
With more people like this hero, Joel Burns tells gay teens "it gets better", we can.
Another important link about this: http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/15/it-will-get-better/
And in a few short words, this person hits the nail on the head http://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/they-taped-their-roommate-and-outed-him-on-the-internet-now-hes-dead/
- Bullying in School- Does Anyone Want to Step Up? (chicagonow.com)
- Do We Really Need Anti-bullying Law? (socyberty.com)
- You: The Nine Most Common Myths About Bullying (newsweek.com)
- On bullying, a mother points to two good reads (boston.com)