We have all been bullied in one way or another—and even more horrible, we have all been guilty of bullying in one way or another. (Okay, maybe there are some exceptions to that generalization, but I think each of us should start with the possibility that we have been part of that particular emotional transaction.) It’s easy to take a stand against bullying. Here, I’ll do it now. I’m against bullying.
So what? Is that going to stop the kids on the bus from heckling the one they’ve targeted? Is it going to stop the sideways slams in the hall or the sniggering behind someone’s back or the slanderous gossip or the inadvertent (or even deliberate) shunning? All of our public posturing doesn’t speak to the bullies and it doesn’t really give the victims much comfort because tomorrow they step back into the same circumstances.
It gets better—? Yeah, right. Notice how often we hear of some brave young teen who posted an “It Gets Better” video committing suicide a few weeks later? Too many times. Because it didn’t get better. The circumstances didn’t change. And the video only made that teen a bigger target. And he or she didn’t have a support system in place to help ride it out. Where we are failing is that we aren’t really doing anything to address the issue at all. Bullying occurs where there is alienation, fear, and lack of compassion for others. When those causes are actually addressed, the incidence of bullying drops.
How do you actually stop bullying? Well, one way is to create teams and communities within the environment so that you create a menu of alternative transactions. Create a common goal—let’s build something together—that lets everyone show their individual value. Create opportunities for partnership and mingling. Mix-It-Up day at school, where you have lunch with someone you never spoke to before, is a good idea. One of the better ideas I’ve ever heard was to give the bullies the responsibility of watching out for the smaller or younger kids. Suddenly, they get to be parental and learn another way of being.
Sure, go ahead and wear purple today, no big deal. It will end bullying the same way a red ribbon cures aids or a pink ribbons cures breast cancer—but if it’s a signal of a genuine intention to do something more, well then you didn’t really need to wear purple at all, did you?
– David Gerrold