How we create bullies in society

Bullying is a social menace. How many times have we heard of a child coming home in tears because his classmates called him names? The victim, later uninterested to go to school, is helpless especially when bystanders refuse to help. A cycle ensues, and a culture of bullying is born.

The sense of power involved makes a bully thrive. This power may, in fact, be lacking in his shallow self-image, but he is trying to assert his personhood in a negative way that hurts others. Likewise, a sense of feebleness makes the target succumb to a splurge of powerlessness. Beyond results like depression, lack of self-esteem and poor school performance on the part of the victim, bullying may also lead to senseless tragedy.

United States v. Lori Drew is a case involving Drew, a mother who created a fictitious MySpace account under the alias "Josh Evans." This is in retaliation against Megan Meier who allegedly spread rumors against Drew's daughter. After a month of communicating, "Josh" sent Megan the message that the world is a better place without her. The victim thereafter committed suicide. Gruesome, too, is the Columbine High School massacre that was perpetuated by two 18-year old boys, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They were mad at people. But they, too, were victims of bullying.

SCHOOL BULLYING VERSUS ADULT BULLYING

Bullying is a belligerent behavior that involves power, exploiting the weakness of others with regard to physical attributes, orientations, economic status, beliefs, race, and other analogous factors. Bullying may take the form of taunting, teasing, joking, physical beatings, texting, rumor mongering, convincing others to dislike the victim, and more.

To protect Filipino children from bullying, the Department of Education (DepEd) issued the "DepEd Child Protection Policy" (DepEd Order 40, s. 2012). This is a good initial step in combating bullying in schools. How it will really be implemented rests so much on administrators and teachers who, under the Family Code, are the special parents of students in schools. School bullying, however, is just one kind of bullying.

Vice Ganda's joke about Jessica Soho is a good example of adult bullying. While Vice professed it was not his goal to hurt Soho, he intentionally highlighted and made fun of the weight and size of Soho, even exaggerating the insult by qualifying that her rape ought to be a gang rape. Vice intended to crack a joke as he is used to doing in a comedy bar where people pay entrance fees to listen to jokes and willingly allow performers to funnily cut them to pieces. One unwritten rule in such bars is: do not enter unless you are willing to take repugnant jokes. This kind of theater, that can be funnily irreverent but blurs the line between what is sensitive and insensitive, has started to percolate into television.

THE LABYRINTH OF BULLYING

The muddle of bullying does not stop from child to child, or adult to adult. Other nations bully our people, some of whom bully politicians; some politicians occasionally bully the media, which sometimes bully corrupt policemen; some law enforcers bully drunken drivers, who sometimes bully some pregnant passengers; some mothers and fathers at times bully their children, who can at times bully some principals and teachers; and some principals and teachers bully some students, who at times bully other children; and the list goes on and on. It a labyrinth of conflicting interests as well as many-sided motivations. One way or the other, some of us bully others in society.

Bullying persists because we continue to be insensitive about the feelings, if not welfare, of others. Columbine High School's Eric Harris once echoed this: "I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don't ... say, 'Well that's your fault,' because it isn't, you people had my phone number, and I asked and all, but no. No no no don't let the weird-looking Eric KID come along." To be sensitive to the needs of others is one response to reduce bullying and its revolting aftermaths.

Every parent must be a noble example to his or her children. Every school, too, must have a culture of zero tolerance to bullying by continuously updating its Code of Conduct and enforcing it seriously. After all, bullying in childhood, both for the perpetrator and the victim, is a potential factor why bullying might transform into a nasty tapestry of psycho-social snags, economic misery and, sometimes, death.

An award-winning educator, education reformer, and a multi-awarded literary writer, PROF. ROLANDO S. DELA CRUZ is President of the Darwin International School System. He is an alumnus and former faculty member of UP Diliman, who was also a scholar at the Osaka University (Japan), the University of Cambridge (England) and the University of Leiden (the Netherlands).

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