This week was anti-bullying week

To listen to last weeks discussion on bullying please listen to my podcast.

There were events organised the length and breadth of the country.  It is necessary and it is important but isn’t it depressing? It is always seemed to me one of these subjects that you think society is getting a grip on and then you hear more and more stories and more statistics and your heart sinks.

I was on a radio phone-in programme recently and one of the other guests was a young girl of 16 who had been the victim of a sustained vendetta of cyber bullying.  She had been receiving death threats by text as well as saying what terrible things are going to happen to her and her family. She had been scared stiff.

According to the NSPCC 46% of children and young people say they’ve been bullied at school at some point. In 2011/12 31,599 children called ChildLine about bullying.

We hear of regular extortion rackets in schools with terrifying threats if anything is ever said to anybody in authority.

We know from our own lives the great variety of ways that children can be bullied.  We know that the bullies are weak, bad or damaged themselves or possibly a combination of these.  You hear of strong, emotional campaigns being conducted throughout the length and breadth of the country. Films are made and documentaries constantly shown about the problem. Powerful plays are written and performed.

We know, though, that it’s gone on for centuries and it’s just as rife in the adult world. Perhaps under different headings.

Bullying at work happens all over. People abusing power and taking advantage of vulnerable junior staff. The civil courts and the employment tribunals are full to bursting with claims and grievances. A few years ago we heard of the deaths at Deepcut of four young soldiers whose families are convinced were systematically bullied and abused.

So what is it that causes thousands of us, young and old, to take advantage of others? Explanations come thick and fast. We naturally compete for status. We try to impress those who we find attractive. We do it to survive in tough areas. We do it because that’s the way we copied from our parents. We do it because we were bullied ourselves and there’s a perverse balancing of life if we find someone weaker to dominate. Some do it because they’re bored and quite a few do it just because they enjoy the thrill of inflicting pain or causing terror.

Pure, raw, prejudice accounts for substantial numbers of people being victimised.

The organisers of anti-bullying week and the government have gone to great lengths to provide material for every school with events and publicity to back it up and we should all do what we can. Anything we interrupt means peace of mind for someone!

My problem is that, just like calls for world peace, there are too many conflicts to deal with and more waiting to replace them. Some say “let’s lock up the worst offenders!” The problem with that is that prisons are extreme examples of a bullying environment with hierarchies, gang rule and the kings of power broking, so it would only be short term gain and probably reinforce prejudice and alienation.

Anyway, when you live in a world where those with the biggest weapons and the most financial muscle rule the roost (and don’t tell me the way these countries conduct themselves is not bullying!) the big picture often shows the wrong message!

So, it seems that we’ve got to admit that this is a hearts and head debate and start with the very young-in the nursery where they first start mixing with others.

There will always be testing out in groups with some trying to achieve leadership and competing for every scrap. You’ll never take that away from the human condition but children can be taught that power and status brings responsibility and part of that is to maintain respect for everything that is different. You don’t automatically have to fear or hate or hurt. So with all the tips and advice on how to make a real reduction in the problem of bullying should come clear messages. We’ll do all we can to believe you when you work up the courage to tell. We’ll support and take care of those who admit to having a problem.

But we’ll do all this in an atmosphere of zero tolerance starting with our own families. Have a look at the anti bullying alliance website, get the material and see where you can make a difference!

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