Today, it’s National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence in Australia. It’s also Troll Free Day, which focuses directly on cyberbullying.
While these are fantastic initiatives, there’s still so much more which needs to be done.
Questions which need to be asked.
By the way, when I mention bullying, I’m not just talking about kids either.
Indeed, bullies grow up.
While we publicly denounce bullying, for me the big elephant in the room still remains: does bullying pay? Do you need to be the bulldozer, wiping out everyone and everything in your path to get ahead? Or, is there still a place for respect? Teamwork? Being nice?
I don’t know.
Deny it though we might, what do our collective actions say?
As a society, I don’t believe our report card is good. Scratch through the veneer and I’m afraid the verdict doesn’t require much deliberation at all.
Guilty as charged.
However, declaring a National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is an important step. It not only raises awareness but it reinforces that bullying is not okay. Likewise, Troll Free Day, does the same with cyberbullying.
This a huge step forward from when I was a kid and bullies were boys.Girls supposedly smiled sweetly, slipping right under the radar, despite those incredibly long fingernails which could do incredible damage.
Indeed, attending an all girls’ school, there was no such thing as bullying. There were the “popular girls” and the “losers” and it might even depend on the direction of the wind as to where you “belonged” at any given time.
When I was at high school, I endured years of brutal put downs and attacks due to my poor coordination. More than just a duck and not a swan, I had undiagnosed hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain which produced a swag of symptoms which were simply deemed “Rowena”.
People, even friends, emulated and made fun of how I walked not just behind my back but to my very face. There was a level of mean cruelty that I can’t even begin to explain. I just swallowed it and kept swallowing it. I had no choice. There was no escape. At least, that’s what I thought. Fortunately, not everybody was like this and there was kindness. People who didn’t just take pity on me but valued me as a person. Were my friend.
I can’t recall anyone ever getting in trouble for this bullying or the school taking any action whatsoever and my parents were never contacted. Even when I zoned out for a year and a half, I was left to my own devices because I wasn’t bothering anyone. I cut up magazines in class, decorating my school diary and wrote lengthy letters in class to friends at other schools but it took a long time for anyone to step in. I eventually got a new maths teacher who instantly confiscated my diary and scissors. I was in shock. Somewhere around this point, Mum, who was used to glowing reports, heard quite a different story. No doubt she heard I was “zoned out” or “distracted”…not that I was being bullied. That I was showing very evident signs of depression, which might have been a serious concern. But, as I said, we didn’t have bullying at our school…just beautiful people.
I never said a word about what was going on. What could I say? How could I possibly put all that hurt and cruelty into words? I did end up seeing the school counsellor but I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that in particular.Remember “bullying” wasn’t a term I could use back then.
What I went through was bad enough. Yet, it is comparatively minor.
Fortunately, once I left school and started university, I never looked back. I was the same person and yet, I had loads of friends and things were radically different. Go figure. I was still me.
Others never escape. Indeed, bullying and suicide are inextricably linked.
I do wonder what those girls who bullied me are doing now that they’ve grown up? I certainly haven’t received any apologies in the mail. No confessions either. Don’t you ever wonder how bullies sleep at night? Or, perhaps school was just a stepping stone to greater heights? That they’re still knocking other people down to get what they want, be it popularity, status, money, that promotion? Doing whatever it takes!
Speaking of bigger arenas, dare I mention anyone in particular?
No! I’ll leave that up to you.