Tabitha Summerhayes is a full-time PR student at Humber College.
Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. Show, don’t tell. Messages like these are ingrained in society, well-known and well-used, but it’s not often practiced in all aspects of life. And why not? Ignorance, mostly. Sometimes apathy. Isn’t it easier to just parrot each other, instead of actually digging in to the problem? Dismiss the issue with an “Ooh, no, I won’t tolerate that,” and leave it there? Why get your hands dirty when it’s not your problem?
Except it is your problem.
Victims of bullying are affected by it forty years after it happens. Well into contributing-member-of-society-hood, that small part of your life still has an impact. Childhood is programming for the rest of your life, so it’s pretty abhorrent that we don’t focus on how to handle this issue.
The word “bullying” sounds mild, at best. It brings to mind playground pecking order and spitballs, not the terrible damage it can do to a child. When the people you see every day convey in some way that you are not wanted and that you’re some kind of irredeemable freak, it tends to wear on you. The majority of the people you know, the individuals that you interact with on a daily basis, your entire social world as a child, can reduce you to a series of names and mean words. And that’s invisible. The damage done to a person that persists throughout their life is not always apparent. Some people get it worse than others, and some hide it better. But it will never leave you.
Schools have come a long way when it comes to dealing with the issue. Harsher punishment when it comes to hazing is a step in the right direction. The recent focus on mental health is another good step, and we’re slowly leaving behind this insensitivity.
Initially, to me, that seemed wrong. I remember thinking in grade 9, “But that’s just how it is!” Six years later I’m appalled at how messed up it is that I legitimately thought that was right. That people already going through the stresses of transitioning from one environment to the next deserve to be assaulted on top of that. Pointless violence is sewn into minor culture. That’s disgusting.
Do we have a solution that will end bullying? Nope. We never will. That’s not a real thing. The factors that lead to bullying are too varied to have any sort of end-all solution be feasible. All those campaigns about taking a stand are useless feel-good wannabe-activism. Simply insisting that “we won’t tolerate it” is cute, at best. The entire issue is that people who seek to harm others are disregarding the rules in the first place; they know that what they are doing is against the rules.
Our goal should be to help those afflicted by this. Teach students how to defend themselves in some way, not tell them to walk away. Walking away is a blatant white flag, and while the pacifist option might be the high road, moral superiority isn’t going to help ten years later when you’re too afraid to share your interests and connect to people because you think they’re going to make fun of you. A hindrance to your ability to socialize is ruining. Guess what happens when you walk away? A bully can follow you and still kick your ass.
Young people are the foundation of society. The youth of a generation will direct the world from their perspective, and right now, our society lets bullies rise to the top. The loudmouthed, abrasive, and demanding people rise through the ranks and lead us. We have people who think violence is the only solution making our decisions for us. This is nigh-impossible to eradicate.
We will never reach a perfect state, because the concept of perfection, like time, was invented by humans and doesn’t exist. But we are always capable of bettering ourselves.
Everyone has been a victim at some point in their lives. What can you do to help someone who is currently in that same situation?