I watched a video today that a friend (a couple of friends, really) shared. It’s embedded down there. The long and short of it is that a boy who has gone through shite with bullies is not giving up.
I certainly hope he doesn’t. Give up, I mean. Because his video broke my heart today. He is terrified, and hurt, and he feels alone, but he is resolute and he is trying very, very hard to be strong.
It made me think that for every kid brave enough to lay themselves bare like this, and for every one of us who watches and hurts, there are others who share this stuff and laugh. One day, those people might look back and realise what assholes they were, but until then we have to deal with it.
One of my friends posted a follow-up clip of ‘bully beatdown’, and he made some very good points about how in a system that preaches ‘zero tolerance’, there really is an awful lot of tolerance and hoping it will go away before someone launches a lawsuit. He’s right.
Sometimes, fighting back does solve the symptom. But it never solves the problem. Because ultimately, people aren’t born assholes. This is something we learn. Bullies (I have come to despise this term nearly as much as I despise the term ‘terrorist’. They’ve both just become stupid meaningless labels. But for the sake of brevity, I’m using it.) are bullies because they are scared, and hurt, and abused, and broken. THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT OKAY.
What I’m trying to say is that there is a difference between the symptom (people who hurt others) and the problem (the need to hurt others). Sure, I’ll give you that some people are just sociopaths. And that some of my friends who speak out most stridently against bullies are, in fact, bullies themselves.
So how do we stop it?
The realist in me says we never will.
But the rest of me says that in every situation where a kid is beaten and bullied, there are at least two things broken: the people who didn’t stop it, and the people who didn’t try to help.
I’m talking in circles.
The *symptom*, in other words, is that there are people who are so frightened, hurt, abused, or otherwise broken, that they take out their feelings or they project their feelings on to others. But the underlying *problem* is that there are people who are frightened, hurt, abused, neglected, addicted, or otherwise broken. Period.
No, I’m not sitting here saying that “talking about our feelings is going to solve all of our problems”. I’m saying that compassion, to me, dictates that carrying big sticks isn’t the solution to the *problem*. It does address the symptom.
And I also need to point out that I was never bullied or beaten or pushed around or teased in school. Or if I was, I didn’t notice. You might think that’s ridiculous, but it’s true. My best friend was, though, and I kind of was her “big stick”. One time, when I was in grade two, an older girl called Clair rolled a rock into a snowball and threw it at me and it hit me in the face. Split open my lip and I went home crying.
The whole way home, I was thinking, “why would she do that to me?” and “what have I done to make her hate me so much?” The next day, I asked her. She said she didn’t know. That she thought it would be funny. I asked her if it was funny. She had laughed the day before. But she didn’t answer. I hadn’t meant to be confrontational; I just wanted to understand.
And not everyone is going to be able to stand up to assholes, and not everyone is going to be willing to turn the other cheek and not everyone believes that violence is not a solution (it’s a treatment; just like insulin is not a cure for diabetes). I’m okay with that. It just makes me so very, very sad because I want to hold this kid and tell him how brave he is and how he should try very, very hard not to hate himself. And I want to ask the kids who are so horrid to him why they do the things they do.
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is an awesome solution, if you want a society full of blind, toothless fools.