When did things get so mean?

In the classic 1970's  horror movie Carrie bullies poured pig's blood on their victim. Today's  bullie's are often literally out for blood.Recently, I was shocked and saddened to read that a friend’s daughter had been bullied at her suburban high school. According my friend’s Facebook posting, the abuse went on for several years. I was relieved that my friend had moved her daughter to a new school. She wrote that she had been frustrated with the refusal of school administrators to deal with situation. Sadly, the situation has yet to be resolved, but my friend and her daughter are receiving a lot of support from loving friends and family.
 
I immediately contacted my friend to say how sad I was to learn about her daughter’s situation. I told her I didn’t remember this type of bully behaviour when we were younger, but I also know life wasn’t perfect then; some kids had a rougher time growing up than we did.
 
Recently, some of our old school friends have posted on Facebook their memories of being teased. None mentioned viciousness on the scale of what is reported today. It would not have been tolerated by our teachers or students. Bullies today, as my friend put it, are literally “out for blood.” The expression is not an exaggeration. In our new bully culture, where no one intercedes to protect the victim, violence and even death are all too often a reality. 
 
Recently a young Canadian girl, Amanda Todd, was driven to suicide by cruel and relentless peer bullying, as was Phoebe Prince in Massachusetts a few years ago. Neither girl received any help from school officials or schoolmates. To this day their communities remain callous and remorseless.
 
It is not just schoolchildren who are bullied. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, the Workplace Bullying Institute reported that about 53 million Americans – more than third of the American work force – had been bullied at work. An additional 15 percent of those surveyed admitted they had witnessed workplace bullying. Gary Namie, a social psychologist, established the WBI in 1997with his wife Ruth, a clinical psychologist after she was bullied in the workplace.
 
I have witnessed it myself. A year ago another high school friend sought support on Facebook as she was bullied daily by her supervisor. It was heartbreaking to read accounts of this cheerful and generous woman being demeaned and humiliated by her unhappy supervisor. All her friends celebrated when she found a new job where she was appreciated and happy.
 
“Bullying causes health harm,” says Namie. “It is psychological violence. Research shows that the level of anger and depression is higher from bullying than sexual harassment. It's much more akin to domestic violence – except the abusive partner is on the payroll.”
 
Bully behavior has become commonplace in daily life. At my lovely, Zen-like health club, two men recently tried to bully another member. The incident involved shouting and profanity. The woman who was bullied is a friend. I was speaking with her when the incident happened. My friend and I were both physically stressed by the  incident and I know it was stressful for the other members and staff, too.
 
I can only hope that workplaces and schools will become more compassionate and proactive in dealing with violent behavior. Bully behaviour does not happen in a vacuum. It is a direct result of stress and violence.
 
I was lucky not to grow up with in climate that tolerated violent behaviour. Without exception, the few kids who acted out came from homes with problems. They brought to school frustrations and coping mechanisms learned in homes fraught with abuse, neglect, and often alcoholism.
 
Also, the teachers and other professionals who worked in schools back then were happy well-educated professionals. In our pro-education suburb they had the support and cooperation of parents. This seems a far cry from the tense, stressed families and over-worked angry school administrators one sees on the news today. It is a miracle that we have any dedicated teachers left at all, given the current lack of support for education.
 
The same counter-productive, negative conditions can be seen in many workplaces today too. How happy and secure are most people at their jobs today?
 
Sadly, stress rolls downhill and doesn’t bring out the best in many people.
 
Darlings, we live in stressful times. Hurricane Sandy has just placed huge burdens on many in our country. And many others have lived under huge stress since the recession of 2008. Tough economic conditions have placed strains on emotions and behaviour. Even if you are not directly affected by a struggling economy, you deal daily with those who are feeling stretched and squeezed.
 
Together we can change our bully culture. Say no to bully behavior. Speak up to stop bullying when you see it. Be consciously inclusive. Together we can make the world a kinder, more civil place.

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What you think of me is none of my business!

We live in modern and open times, so much so that one can be publicly pilloried for having an opinion. It seems to get worse every day. It’s A constant target of the shoe policereally rather shocking that so many people have had to defend poor Miss California, Carrie Prejean for her honest answer to a question about gay marriage during the Miss USA pageant. Her response: “We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.” It was not politically correct, but it clearly stated that she recognized free choice.

 
This is more than can be said for Perez Hilton, the gay gossip blogger and pageant judge. He asked her the question. Since then he has made obscene and hateful remarks about Carrie Prejean. He has called her a bitch and worse. He has also drummed up a hate campaign against her for holding an opinion that he does not care for. It is really unacceptable, but not unexpected. After all what is Perez Hilton but a someone who makes his living by passing off nastiness as cleverness? His appeal has always escaped me. I am not amused by his tacky doodles over the faces of celebrities. What disturbs me is Perez Hilton is given any credence at all. It is also disturbing that it has become acceptable to publicly trash and judge people for things that used to — and should be – no one’s business.
 
Darlings, poor frumpy Susan Boyle got a hair cut and a new outfit and the media call it a make-over. Some of them even took a poll on it. Their readers voted yeah or nay on her ‘new look’. I don’t think she looks all that different, and even if she did, whose business is it? I would expect the media to report if she showed up done-up like Marilyn or Madonna. But isn’t asking readers to vote on it a bit presumptuous to say the least? Since when do we vote on people’s appearance?
 
Whether people are condemning someone for looking too frumpy, sexy, silly, rich, poor, straight, or gay, it is just plain wrong. I am not sure when it became acceptable to act as Perez Hilton did towards Miss California, but the behavior is commonplace. It needs to stop. It is shocking how few people of differing opinions can engage in a conversation these days without things getting heated and personal. To be able to engage in a spirited, cordial discussion with people of differing viewpoints used to be a mark of good manners as well as intellect. Now it is rare. We must bring back the tradition of a respectful free exchange of ideas.

Without a tolerance for ideas of others we can’t foster a climate in which art or science can flourish. 
 
County legend Jeanne C. Riley topped the charts with a hit called Harper Valley PTA in 1968. The song tells the tale of a junior high school student sent home with a note about the scandalous behavior of her single and divorced mother. It really gets going with the mother’s rebuttal: “This is just a little Peyton Place and you’re all Harper Valley Hypocrites”.
 
This song seems dated now, but at the time some considered it a feminist anthem. I think it stills ends a timely message as to how many are acting these days. On both the left and the right there seem to be too many bullies who want decide how everyone else should live. Some even confuse freedom of speech with hate mongering. They are hypocrites who love freedom as choice as long as everyone chooses their way.
 
Other may seem more benign as they critique other’s appearance, weight, or even choice of shoes. I have been the target of the shoe police many times. I have always wondered why another would woman care if I chose to wear heels all day. Am I hurting her feet or breaking her back? I know I am not hurting my own. I’m  not sure if my vampy heels threaten the shoe police or if they just can’t mind their own business. I really don’t care, but more sensitive types might.
 
 I don’t necessarily agree with Miss California’s views, but I am offended that she couldn’t state an opinion without being attacked for it. Especially as she said clearly that others had the right to chose. We have a big problem with schoolyard bullies and mean girls. Is it surprising, given the lack of tolerance many adults display over the smallest issues?
 
Well darlings, I think it’s time to bring back a polite exchange of ideas. And, I don’t think it should be open season on one’s appearance, relationship, and personal business, with anyone feeling free to take a verbal pot-shot at will. I had a fabulous and eccentric friend who had a wonderful way of expressing this idea. Good-naturedly, she used to say to those who had too many negative opinions ‘what you think of me, is none of my business.” The next time someone really crosses the line with you –feel free to borrow it.
 Anne Gravel commented, "Amen."
 
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