The Culture of Bullying


Bullying on IRFE as of March 5, 2007 (the firs...

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The word echoes through the air these days.  Every day you hear a new story or of a new death. For me, recently, each day brings a new awareness about the  pervasiveness of this issue.

I want to do something about it.

This week I conducted a workshop at a nearby high school on Performance Art. While Performance Art is not exactly my favorite type of theater, I think it is an interesting thing to introduce to high school students as it provides them an outlet to explore issues using art, theater, music, and other things to express themselves. I introduce the techniques by using a piece of literature or poetry (for this workshop I used “Ozymandias”). I also brought an extra poem to help out, this time one on bullying that I found on a WordPress blog (thank you to that blog writer).

The students were then given an assignment to create their own piece of performance art, with the only restrictions being that they respect each other and respect school rules. The results were interesting, with topics ranging from family relationships to feeling stressed about choices they needed to make in life. The majority of them, however, were about bullying.

Now, maybe that was a reaction to the poem I read them, but I think it goes deeper than that. In our discussions afterwards most of the students acknowledged that there is bullying at their school. Some of them hesitantly acknowledged to being victims.

More disturbing to me, however, were the number of people who acknowledged being witnesses to bullying, but who simply walked away.

Coincidentally, last night I was asked to adjudicate a performance at another area high school. The play they put on was Bang Bang Your Dead! by William Mastrosimone which explores the issue of bullying from the perspective of a boy who shoots 7 people (5 students and his parents). Not a light evening of theater, that’s for sure. There were two talk-backs after the performance, one for the audience and one between the adjudicators and the cast. Both were revealing.

The first showed that the parents and community are aware of the problem but feeling at a loss as to what can be done.

The second revealed what the kids had learned from this process. Many of them researched and became aware of the amount of bullying that exists in the world, and in their more immediate world. BUT, and this is a disturbing but, their understanding and new knowledge did not promote action. They shared a story that, after a school viewing of the show, some freshman started teasing and throwing food at the lead (the person who played the killer). Rather than saying something, he walked away!

How do we fix this? I know it is scary to confront bullies. I recognize that sometimes it is easier to hide our eyes and pretend we don’t see what is in front of us. But that way lies Columbine. That way lies 9/11. That way lies the Holocaust.

Now, I’m sure somebody will object to me connecting bullying with 9/11 or with the Holocaust, but what is bullying if not a form of intolerance? It is about someone showing power over weakness, or trying to pretend to have power by making others feel weak. In a way, bullying is human nature, in the sense of survival of the fittest. The strong win and the weak are destroyed. Bullying is not something that occurs just between children in school, it is just that in some ways adult bullying is more subtle. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous however.

If bullying is human nature, does that mean there is no hope of change? It has become crucial for us, as a society, to break free of this negative quality of human nature. We need to learn to respect and value diversity, otherwise there will never be an end to violence, hatred, death (by violence) and bullying.

I hope we can do it.

With more people like this hero, Joel Burns tells gay teens \”it gets better\”, we can.

Another important link about this:

And in a few short words, this person hits the nail on the head

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Reflections on Writing « Woman Wielding Words
  2. sparksinshadow
    Jul 19, 2011 @ 14:29:47

    You can’t wonder if anyone has read this anymore. I did and I agree with what you’ve said here.

    One of the sadder things I’ve come to understand is how little many of the bullies know that this is what they’re doing. We found out a few years after our marriage, that my ex-husband has Aspergers Disorder. So he honestly had no idea that he was bullying me, and he was unable, because of it, to learn how to stop. Some bullies perpetuate what they’ve learned at home when they were very young. Without understanding that, how would they begin to search for ways to stop. I was even bullied by a job counselor at an agency (and wrote about it in one of my posts that was only read by one person that I know of.)

    I’m afraid all anyone can do is speak up when they encounter it, as you suggested here, and continue to write about it and talk about it. I hope that together it can all do some good.


    • Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)
      Jul 19, 2011 @ 17:46:49

      Wow, imagine if people had recognized his behavior earlier so that he could have gotten help dealing with Aspergers. I mean, his bullying ways probably appeared earlier in his life, but nobody called him on it or tried to help him. That makes me so sad, for both your ex and yourself.


  3. sparksinshadow
    Jul 19, 2011 @ 20:12:22

    Thanks for your kind words, Lisa.There are other ways my husband could have been helped when he was young– that’s why I love the NBC show “Parenthood.” The writers are trying to be honest and compassionate about showing Apergers issues and some ways to cope. But the main point about the condition is that those who have it, don’t have the ability to understand other peoples feelings or understand the impact their words and actions have on other people. They have very little or no long term memory for this kind of thing.

    I learned from my ex’s psychologist, who also taught a college course on Autism Spectrum Disorders, that neurologically they aren’t able to make connections about social behavior that most of us learn very early in life. His not understanding was almost as hard on him as it was on me. He felt like he was being picked on when I got upset, or sad, or scared, or I cried. Sometimes he would get nervous when I was happy because he couldn’t “read” it on my face or in my body language. He could feel any of these emotions, but if I did, he would get upset and want me to stop. It was simple and horribly complicated all at the same time.

    When I think of all of the adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders who have to live with us and our unfathomable emotions, most of them not even knowing what’s wrong because they were born before their conditions were reasonably understood and diagnosed, it breaks my heart. At other times I have a ton of anger that has no place to go. This is one of the reasons why many social issues don’t feel simple for me anymore. I feel like a part of me is still in the battle that many parents are in, even though I don’t have to deal with my ex so much anymore. I have some scars, but I found my way out of hell. Parents aren’t supposed to leave, but they’re going through it, too– without much help from society.

    I’m sorry to write so much about this here, but I realized once I started that this is a bit of a record, so I wanted to say enough so that anyone who happened upon it would be able to get the point and have enough info to seek out more if they needed it.

    If it’s too much, I’ll understand if you need to delete it.


    • Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)
      Jul 20, 2011 @ 07:50:27

      No apologies necessary. That’s what the world of blogging is all about, sparking discussion and writing what we need to write.


  4. Trackback: 500 Posts, Now What? « Woman Wielding Words
  5. Trackback: The Thing About Bullying | Lisa A. Kramer: Woman Wielding Words

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