Blog » Bullying - a retrospective
As Pink Shirt Day is less than a month away, on Fri 18th May, I thought I'd put together a retrospective of some of the posts I've written on the subject in the past year or so. Click on the title to see the original post and comments.
I see the issue of bullying – whether in schools, workplaces or homes –as a breakdown in relationship due to fear, power and lack of awareness, in both the triggers (perpetrators) and targets (victims). The way to resolve bullying is to facilitate a dialogue to help them see this commonality, as well as respecting each other's uniqueness.
Note that rather than using use the noun "bully" I refer to bullying as a relationship dynamic. It's a particular type of conflict where one party exerts power over the other.
Both parties need to engage in a dialogue with a facilitator or coach, first separately and then together, about their fears and insecurities, hopes and dreams, roles and identity, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes etc.
Then they need work to feel safe to meet together, again with a thrd party, to share their individual stories. Through this they will identify inaccurate assumptions of each other as well as recognising similarities and differences among each other.
Once they understand and accept their diversity, they can begin to build a relationship where they no longer feel threatened by one another. They will no longer need to compete for power.
I've just been emailed links to these two wonderful videos by young gay men who have been targets of bullying. The second is a response to the first. Both these young men thought they were unique in their experience; in fact it was common.
They probably have more in common with the young people who were triggered to bully them than they'll ever know, too.
It's important to understand that these guys aren't the problem. Nor are the young people who were triggered to bully them. Schools are not the breeding ground for bullying.
The problem is the bullying society we live in. The problem is that adults model to young people that it's ok to do anything to get what you want. It's ok to put others down to build yourself up. It's ok to hurt those with whom you disagree.
Bullying is an adult problem. Respect is an adult responsibility. Change is an adult imperative.
I'm inspired by this US youth initiative. This video proves to me that young people often surpass adult's enthusiasm and capacity for understanding diversity and promoting change in creative and innovative ways.
Contrast the behaviour of these young people with the alternative bullying culture and it seems that what adults fail to understand is our responsibility to create the opportunity for young people to express their constructive potential amidst the myriad of media and political demonstrations of violence, competition and negativity.
As Samuel's dad so rightly points out, schools are the hub of community and a school that excludes creates a community that misses out on the opportunity to include all.
It's up to us all to ensure that opportunity is harnessed.
Pink Shirt Day is more than just a day to wear pink and talk about kids being mean to each other because of their sexual preference or gender identity. I think it's a day to reflect on the bullying nature of our society in general.
All of our major institutions use bullying, stand-over and fear tactics to gain power and control over others. We see it in politics, religion, business, media, sport, welfare, social services, education and our justice system.
Let's face it —we live in a bullying world and we deify people who trigger bullying behaviour.
Donald Trump bullies. Oprah Winfrey bullies. Brian Tamaki bullies. John Key bullies. The All Blacks bully. John Campbell bullies. Teachers bully. Medical specialists bully. Lawyers bully. Work and Income bullies.
The system we live in calls for bullying behaviour, because it's based on competition and getting ahead of each other in order to succeed individually.
But actually we need to get ahead together.
So wear your pink shirt with pride and concern for others on Pink Shirt Day. But remember to check your own behaviour — in conversations, in traffic, in negotiations, even in play — and make sure you're not shoving people aside to get what you think you need to succeed.