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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