The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Bullying is still ugly, if not a whole lot uglier

on November 1, 2013

This is a departure from what I’ve written about so far. I’m loathe to sully my blog with this subject matter but I’m also so incensed, I feel compelled to say something about it.

I came across a link on Facebook that popped up in my news feed. It contained a photo of someone I don’t know accompanied by a rather strong headline. I won’t reveal the subject matter as I don’t think it’s relevant to my point. Curious and confused, I read the blog post which tells the story from the viewpoint of one of the three possible parties involved.

What shocked me so much is the responses this article received from the general public. Comments started off with genuine rage at the article content but very quickly went off topic to voice hostility on specific elements. In this case it focused on the nationality of one party and their employment status. Comments were made about retribution on one party and their family and extended family. When another commentator pointed out the idiocy of this, someone else said that they would never carry out actual violence but they are using their voices to give an opinion instead which was perfectly acceptable. Opinions were then made on foreigners as a whole taking jobs that should not be given to foreigners. What has ensued can only be described as a witch hunt; further posts have been put up giving information on one parties place of work and then targeting the personnel of the company by nationality ratio and whether such a company actually had a right to be operating in the host country.

I stopped reading, and I had spent less than ten minutes scrolling through posts, because it made me feel sick. It made me feel sick because grown ups like you and me were making comments that can only be described as racist, unpleasant and extremely damaging. All in the name of freedom of speech and being entitled to an opinion.

It’s bullying of the lowest form.

You know, the worldwide web is a wonderful thing. It allows us to find information in an instant, it allows us to share news across the miles and keep us in touch with our loved ones, it gives us another chance to reconnect with people that otherwise would have been long ago lost in the ether of time.

And yet it also gives small minded people a voice, buoyed on by the cowardice of other small minded people hidden behind an anonymous wall of cyber silence. Sitting there tapping out vile, narrow minded, ‘opinions’ often about someone they don’t know and about something they know nothing about.

I think ‘bullying’ as a word doesn’t convey the full effect of the damage it can cause. Neither does the advice ‘stand up to the bullies’ hold much store either if it is on line bullying. Ignore it you say? I wish I had. Just from the posts I read tonight has left a deeply bitter taste in my mouth.

So can you imagine the effect on impressionable, young adolescents who in our day perhaps only feared the bullies when they saw them. Now, there is no getting away from it. They can strike at any time on line and it can’t be erased, leaving an indelible mark on the victim.

Bullying is nothing new to me. An easy target being Chinese. I hate the word ‘Chink’ or ‘Chinky’ with a passion. That’s what would be called out by the nobs who thought it was funny and made them look big in front of their nob friends. We lived in one area for a few years where stones were often thrown at our windows. Even a next door neighbour once called out to his wife, ‘It’s the Chinky next door’.

It is never acceptable either to use it because that’s what you’ve always called Chinese people and you don’t mean anything by it. It should be enough that I feel slighted by the use of it. To me it brings back feelings of shame, of wanting to melt into the background, to go about school unnoticed. It’s awful being laughed at for something you can’t control, no matter what that something may be.

When does ‘banter’ become bullying? When you know in your heart you wouldn’t like it if it was directed at you.

When I was 13 we moved to Chester-le-Street. I wasn’t looking forward to starting a new school at that age. I was worried about being targeted again as well as being the New Girl. It never came. The name calling never came. If only I could tell them now, the people who were at that school with me, what a relief it was. I hardly came across that kind of bullying again either. So I worry less that the young people in my family are faced with it. The world as a whole is a lot more forward thinking.

You may say that a bit of name calling is hardly anything but I don’t. I remember the fear it struck in me. Always hoping never to bump into the group of perpetrators. The feeling of shame and wishing I wasn’t the target of their cheap entertainment. Fear is terribly debilitating.

The point I want to make and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, is how serious on line bullying is becoming and what can be done about it. It seems no one is immune with the rise of ‘trolls’ and lack of social media governance. If I felt a strong need to campaign about any issue right now then this would be it. Bullying has not gone away, if anything it’s a whole lot worse. It’s one of my greatest parental fears to navigate when #1, 2 and 3 are older and how can we protect them from it. I don’t know just yet but I hope together we’ll come up with something.

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