B is for Bullying.
Bul.ly.ing (noun): abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc. (Merriam-Webster).
If you look up the term bullying, there is a vast sea of literature that you can pick your way through: books, links, helplines, articles, websites, organisations, courses, yet bullying is still an uncomfortable and often taboo subject for many people. It is out there and in our face, but also hiding slyly at the sidelines.
I often doodle in a journal when I want to clarify my thoughts or spark my creative buzz. My “bullying” doodles however, got slightly out of hand and I began to loose perspective on what I was trying to say. My pulse started to jump and I had to stop, sit back and calm my breathing. I called on some friendly backup and asked the question: what is the first thing that pops into your head when I say “bullying”.
Now close your eyes, and try it.
When I was at school I was bullied. Bullied for being ugly, bullied for being stupid, bullied for being different. Bullied for just being me. “School” seemed to be a key word that either came up straight away, or after some discussion.
My own experiences with bullying were fairly mild: name-calling, spreading of rumours, being excluded and deliberately ignored which later escalated into pushing, shoving, hair-pulling and waiting for me both in and out of (secondary) school.
My story is fairly standard but I also know friends that suffered far worse than I ever did. Bones were broken for a start.
When we leave school, we may leave the school bullies behind yet we will still probably come across bullies all our lives: friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, partners and even teachers. I have known them all.
Bullying in the adult world is often called something different and executed in a slightly different, sneakier and grown-up manner, but the same rules apply. It is about a balance of power and the ability or need to make another feel powerless. I once knew a teacher who would make jokes and incite laughter with regards to fellow colleagues. Their daily banter was never taken too seriously, but it was always as someone else´s expense and it was always done with light ridicule in mind.
I have also known colleagues to sit on the sidelines when students were bullied within their own classrooms. Instead of intervention, they chose to make less of the situation when actually it deserved their utmost attention. Many of us, at some point, will have been a spectator to bullying. Here, the need to stand together becomes greater, as the power of unity binds us and makes us stronger. As Ryunosuke Satoro staes: Individually, we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.
Dealing with bullying is as tricky now as in childhood. It always has and it always will be. Often, the victim will suffer in silence, as fear of repercussions can be far greater than the need for intervention. Children can be very good at hiding what they don´t want us to see, which is why there is still a need to be vigilant. Educating our students and children is fundamental, not only for them, but for us as well.
Celebration of diversity may be much greater and more open than it was when I was at school, but as times change, so do the methods used to bully. Through the use of mobile phones, devices and social media, it is so much harder to escape bullies. We are open and available at all times and there is no easy escape from online persecution.
I am not an expert in this field and have no illuminating advice to give, other than what I have lived through and experienced first-hand. Bullying is never and will never be acceptable, no matter how old you are and no matter when it takes place in your life.
I would like to think that our vigilance and willingness to be honest and open about our own experiences may help to shape and change future generations, and the bullies we know or have known throughout our lives will no longer have power over us or our children.