Friday, March 30, 2007

Weighing in and BlogHer supports Andy Carvin's new holiday

Slowly but surely wins the race, right? I hope the rest of Lotta's Future MILF's are doing well.

Yesterday I posted about bullying. (By the way, comments remain open. So feel free to write out your thoughts if you want.)

Lisa Stone wrote today in support of PBS Teachers learning now's Andy Carvin who declared today Stop Cyberbullying Day. (Thanks for the heads-up on that, Elisa.)

Also, today, Amy Goodman interviewed Professor Philip Zimbardo, an expert on bullying and victimization (to say the least) and author of a new book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

It's interesting how things flow together, or how you see/find/hear things when you are aware of them

My post yesterday wasn't a coincidence. It had been on my mind for about two weeks, and then a variety of different events motivated me to finally post my thoughts. It's been fascinating to hear thoughts and opinions, heartbreaking and troubling to read others' stories, and intriguing to learn about people's theories about bullying.

I think bullying grows up with us. I think it grows beyond inappropriate comments. I think it can become instituitionalized and oppressive. What is racism? What is bigotry? What is discrimination? What is neglect?

When you think of the mean bully of yesterday's school playground...cast your mind to now, and forward, and think of the groups of people currently oppressed within systemized bullying.

Children lack the vocabulary and means to rationalize bullying...the victim is the reason, "She's different, he's different."

Adults have the vocabulary and means to rationalize bullying...but at the end of the day, the victim is still the reason. We can call them a danger, we can explain they ask for it, we can even say they deserve it and bring it upon themselves. Or, worst of all, we can put something (such as a corporate bottom line or a selfish agenda) above humane treatment.

If we let it, bullying grows up. I don't think we can eradicate it. But hopefully leaders---be they elected, or unofficial, in a large position, or just the go-to guy/gal---learn to lead without trampling. And also, even more hopefully, with the newer mentality I see with today's kids, parents, and teachers, we can create a culture of intolerance for bullying, and help people feel more empowered to stand up to it or more peaceful about ignoring it.

Part of this might be through better understanding of it: what situations breed it, what feeds us, the risk within us all. And through that, better understanding of each human being in all of the many positions within and around bullying.

It was a coincidence--in a way---that today Amy Goodman presented Understanding How Good People Turn Evil: Renowned Psychologist Philip Zimbardo On his Landmark Stanford Prison Experiment, Abu Ghraib and More. This was The Study of bullying. I've read and heard about this study many times. Still, it was intriguing to listen to Professor Zimbardo talk today about how and why he decided to cut the study short, and how he too became complicit in the events that unfolded during the study. He had to process why he was willing to sit and obseve as the study became out of control and harmful to participants. What snapped him out of it? His girlfriend came by to visit, saw what was happening, and burst into tears. She called him the equivalent of a monster to merely sit by and told him he was the cause of the harm these boys were suffering. She said she could not be in a relationship with someone who put science over humanity. And she left. He said it was the slap in the face he needed, and he immediately ended the study.

Thirty-five years later, the participants and society are still processing the effects of what we all discovered in six days in 1971. This is because we are still learning, still haven't learned.

But I do see progress. What happened at Abu Ghraib, for example, wasn't tolerated. It happened, yes, but wasn't tolerated.

Many say---with some validity---that political correctness has gone too far. However, it has also created acceptance, consideration, and moreover, a (hopefully) growing culture of intolerance for difference-based cruelty.

It's said that you can only feel like a victim if you let yourself. Perhaps I still have learning to do, but at this point in my life, I think that once again puts the responsibility too squarely on the victim's shoulders.

Other people elicit feeling in you. I feel, therefore I am. But, also: I think, therefore I am.

The choice I have is what I think of it and what I do. React is spontaneous, act can be very conscious. If I shut off my feelings, I run the risk, I think, of putting a lid on a valuable jar that ought to stay open. Rather than stop feeling, instead I allow it and process from it.

I don't think there is solely one response to bullies. I think there are many types, in many situations. And I think we need to use discretion about how we respond (if we respond) rather than always use the same, canned retort. I also think we need to consider each bully individually, rather than bucketing them into a category, such as "All bullies are attention-seekers who are insecure and evil." Doing this is the flip side of the bully coin, and dehumanizes through oversimplying another person into a single act or trait.

Look at the bully: who is this person, what do I know about this person, why would this person do this---can I tell?

And from there...I think we can each intelligently, with compassion for ourselves and the other person or people, determine what to do.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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ElisaC said...

Thanks for linking and for this thoughtful post on the subject. (I just saw Zimbardo on the Daily Show...fascinating.)

Want to point out that actually the Stop Cyberbullying Day was the brainchild of Andy Carvin, and BlogHer is enthusiastically supporting his idea. Here's his original post on it:

Mrs. Chicky said...

I also saw Zimbardo on the Daily Show. I think our culture begs for more discussion about bullying, even though there has already been a lot said about it so far. Bullying of any kind is painful as well as harmful and people should be made aware of what can be done about it.

Great post!

Mary-LUE said...

I agree with you that we have to be careful about having one canned response to bullying and bullies. While understanding that bullying is always wrong, humans are complex and diverse beings. We might have a host of common emotions, motivations, etc., but each person's has their own family baggage, temperament, and experiences which contribute to who they are. On top of that, there is that indefinable quality which makes one person take their circumstances and respond in a positive way and another use those circumstances as an excuse for the choices they make.

All of this meandering to say that while I believe there are loose generalizations to be made about bullying, there is no one magic answer to deal with it or explain it.

kim said...

I wrote about how we dealt with my son's experience with a bully. Nothing is worse than having your child bullied.

Fear feeds the bully. So we did our best to give our son the tools he needed to overcome fear and deal with one (and yes that included a lesson on how to fight physically-the boy had already punched my son in the stomach).

Most schools have bully prevention programs and it seems to make a difference on how the children treat each other in general. Our school has 0 tolerance for negative or mean behavior of any kind. The teachers do not let one remark go by without correction.