Bullying Happens: Life Shouldn’t be all Buttercups and Flowers | By J. More

I watched the following video last night and it really had me thinking…

Does anti bullying legislation need to exist? Really think about that question. I feel like nine times out of ten when I bring up the topic of bullying people instantly start shouting “BULLYING BAD! BAD BAD!” Okay, I get it and I’m not advocating for bullying. But, it seems like there was no time prior to their uncontrollable knee jerk to really evaluate any other side of such an argument.

Over the last 15 years or so it’s hard to avoid talk of bullying. If I said the word Columbine I know what would come to mind for most of you and for the rest of you: Columbine high school April 20th, 1999 – two students murder twelve of their peers and one teacher, the massacre sparks debate over gun control laws, violence in movies and video games and of course high school cliques, sub-cultures and bullying. That’s when I really remember the “bullying issue” coming to the public’s attention. Since then there has been an unending list of anti-bullying initiatives, organizations and what I feel is most interesting, anti-bullying legislation.

Browsing though the Government of Alberta site, I came across something quite interesting under the heading What Bullying Isn’t:

Bullying isn’t a normal part of growing up, and it does not build character. It is a learned behaviour that hurts everyone—those who get bullied, those doing the bullying, and the people watching. It damages our schools, our communities and our society at large. Bullying is a relationship problem. It is the assertion of interpersonal power through aggression. Bullying involves:

repeated and consistent negative actions against another.

an imbalance of power between the bully and the target.

a contrast of feelings between the bully and the target as a result of the bullying episode (the child who bullies may feel excited, powerful or amused, while the target feels afraid, embarrassed or hurt).

Okay, you tried to trick me there didn’t you? You tried to make it sound like you were going to talk about what bullying isn’t and then you really just said more about what it is. This is actually the part that is most concerning to me; the definition of bullying is pretty abstract. It seems like we set up a big ol’ umbrella to include everything we just don’t like done to us.

There was also this interesting bit about “an imbalance of power between the bully and the target.“ So my boss and all my profs are bullies? Cool. An imbalance of power is the natural order; you can’t just legislate it into oblivion. However, let’s say for a moment you eliminate bullying in schools and therefore this “imbalance of power.” What happens then? You spend twelve years growing up in a world of flowers and buttercups where everyone likes each other, holds hands and has equal status. FUN! Then BAM! you hit a point where everything changes. I don’t know about you, but if I hadn’t been slowly indoctrinated into the understanding that sometimes the world isn’t the most friendliest of places, I would have just shut down.

That my friends is the crux of the issue. We like to think that as adults we have evolved beyond this “childish” bullying phenomenon. Do we not respect children enough to think that they can deal with things? We need to focus on helping them develop as well-rounded human beings. It isn’t our job as mentors to shelter them; we can’t stop all bad things from happening no matter how hard we try. Let’s focus more of our resources on preparation, not prevention. The world can be a harsh place. I know it sounds pessimistic, but why delay the inevitable?

I don’t have all the answers, I just wanted to get you thinking about the other side of this argument. Bullying definitely is an issue, and one that isn’t going to go away just because we pass a bill saying it’s wrong. And yes, life would be easier in flower-buttercup-handholding-friendland, but unfortunately that isn’t the reality we live in.

For another take on this issue, read HERE.

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  • Solomia

    I definitely have a problem with this piece. Just because something has existed and continues to exist in the ‘real’ world, does not mean that it is right in any way or that it should continue to exist. The definition you found on the government site does not in any way imply that an imbalance of power in itself is bad. It specifies that when that imbalance of power is used in an aggressive and demeaning way, this is deemed BULLYING. I agree that different power levels are required for order, however these power differences should be used in a constructive way, starting at the very first levels of social interactions.

    • J. More

      Hi Solomia,

      Thanks for reading the article I really appreciate the time you took to comment.

      I had really hoped that when I said ” I’m not advocating for bullying” that would be enough but perhaps I need to clarify. This articles purpose is not to say bullying is okay. Bullying a huge problem one that people deal with on a daily basis throughout their entire lives. I just wanted to suggest that maybe there is another answer to the problem, one that doesn’t include the passage of anti-bullying legislation. Behaviour is much more complex than that, it takes more than telling people something is wrong to change, in fact in quite a few cases prohibiting something can be counter productive.

      I absolutely agree with your comment “these power differences should be used in a constructive way, starting at the very first levels of social interactions.” I hope I’ve clarified myself for you.

      Thanks again!
      J. More