We’re Doing It Wrong

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.

cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.


  1. it is so hard to know what the answer is. You tell your teachers and the bullying gets worse. Someone stands up for you at the risk of being bullied themselves. You stand up for yourself and the bullying gets more intense. I honestly can’t go back 25 years and give my 12 year old self an answer that won’t make things worse instead of better. I don’t have an answer for that girl. This kid’s pain broke my heart earlier today because I can remember my own life being just that bad. I could tell him that it gets better, but that sees like a rather trite response. Sure, maybe he won’t be bullied anymore but he will be battling those scars for the rest of his life. You never fully believe in yourself and never can fully trust anyone. My greatest fear is that my children go through what I did. That they become those angry and sensitive young adults like one I have gotten to know quite recently who has a hard time letting anyone in or even believing that people even want him around.

    I feel this post so much. And I wish I had an answer. So that no one has to ever deal with this again.

  2. I think bullying is one of those problems like poverty or war – a reasonable, civilized society can *manage*, but there is no solution there for humanity. Perhaps some successor species, sure, but I don’t think bullying can be solved completely while we still have the brains that we have.

    Managing it, on the other hand, is certainly possible…but first requires a society that acknowledges it as wrong (as opposed to wrong only when it happens to someone they have established an emotional rapport with). And we have yet to see a society that does not condone, at least on some level, the notion that “The strong deserve to take advantage of the weak”. I think societies are giving that idea less and less credence over time, but there is a long way to go.

  3. Wade has really grasped the issue. Its a well and noble thing to WANT to make the improvements. And that’s the human part of humanity…to keep striving to improve. Unfortunately, this is also counterbalanced by the inhuman part of humanity. And we see the ugly reality in all shapes and forms.

    Let me try to illustrate it another way. It would be great to have a utopian western civilization where crime truly didn’t exist thus negating the need for law enforcement. Is this a worthy goal to strive for? Definately. I’d love to see crime and criminal activity eliminated to keep things safe for everyone. The reality is though, that at THIS point in time, there IS a need for law enforcement. With the current resources available, unfortunately there is a need for jails. etc etc etc

    One can debate the virtues of a rehab system vs a punishment system all they want. In the end though, there will always be exceptions to either system. Exceptions that end up hurting someone. And those people do get vocal.

    Is my pain inherently more justified than the pain to someone else? Who gets to decide? The horrible answer to that is: whoever can bring the most force to the table and enforce their viewpoint.

    So, like Wade says, our society “manages” the problems. Doesn’t solve them, because in our current reality, the problem can’t be solved. In its most basic form, it seems to me that this is the end result of any society’s attempts to solve the problem…it ends up as a management issue instead. And you can only manage until you run into the exceptions…that’s where the wheels come off.

    Can a solution be developed? I like to think so. But it takes time…lots of it. And in the meantime, things still need to be managed. Which means, we still have to accept everything brought to the table. Whether you are left or right. Idealist or realist. Optomist or cynic.

    Think of something like, oh, say starting a gaming organization. We need the visionaries to get the ball rolling. But you also need the bean counters to mange things. The visionaries always want it bigger and better. The bean counters point out the capabilities and resources and limitations. The visionaries can’t understand why the bean counter won’t just accept the vision and go with it. The bean counter wonders who is going to pay for it all and wishes it all goes away.

    In the meantime, there’s a bunch of gamers who are saying…just tell us when the event is happening so we can show up (or not).

    I’m in the back sneaking french fries out of the deep fryer ;)
    (yeah, maybe society can do well without me hehehe)

  4. shouldn’t be, but the system certainly seems to support the notion, doesn’t it?

    And again, that’s not to say the system can’t be changed. Until the system does change though, I’m legally obligated to work within said system or else suffer the consequences.

    If I feel strongly enough, then yes, I may make that decision to buck the system and face the consequences at that point. And I won’t try to stop anyone from making that decision either…until that decision starts to infringe on MY inherent safety/rights/whatever. Then I may have a few extra words.

    But this brings me back to my comment. Who gets to decide? Pain is a strong word. I chose it on purpose. So if I use a different degree, does this in any way change the inherent issue at hand? Is causing discomfort to person A for the sake of appeasing person B more justified than causing discomfort to person B for the sake of appeasing A?

    On a slight tangent, here’s something I picked up during my mediation training many moons ago. Its easy to mediate and find common ground on anything that isn’t considered a fundamental value to the persons involved. Usually, reason and logic will prevail. BUT, when you bring into question a person’s values, moral code, etc…this is so ingrained into them, not even just as individuals, but as a culture or lifestyle that people cannot fathom reason at that point. You can almost never mediate or come to a satisfactory compromise, because to do so would be to betray those ideals which you based your entire moral code. Just take a look at any religious based debate as an example.

    And again, it would be best for people to just agree to disagree at that point but the system IMO doesn’t allow for this. It seems there has to be a winner and a loser. We have infinite need, but only finite resources…someone loses out. Its not fair, but we have to live within those boundaries until the changes can happen.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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