There’s something very heartening about 100 White Rock Elementary students being sworn in last month as ‘special constables’ pledged to tackle the problem of bullying.
The WITS anti-bullying program, which White Rock Const. Janelle Shoihet has taught at the school for the past three years, is of undeniable value. It catches children at a young, and still impressionable, age. It’s possible to nip some incipient behaviours in the bud, and, even more importantly, plants the seeds of a bigger idea – that bullying is unacceptable in our society.
If only that were all it would take to eradicate the problem. But such initiatives won’t have nearly as much effect if parents and their peers don’t do their part, too.
It’s been pointed out that those who bully are, very often, those who have been bullied themselves at some point. What is often forgotten is that at the heart of bullying behaviour lies not strength, but fear.
Bullies tend to be very self-revealing. In picking on others they expose their own fears and insecurities – their all-consuming dread of being seen as an outsider, as being different – and, consequently, being judged ‘a loser.’
It’s a dreadful cycle we see played out endlessly – not just on school playgrounds, but in workplaces and social situations of adulthood. In such contexts whispers, smirks and guffaws at perceived differences are clearly not the domain of children alone.
And how many adults, consciously or unconsciously, pass on to their children a ‘dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest’ mentality?
How many businesses foster the notion that, to be a success, you must be ‘tougher’ and ‘meaner’ than everyone else? That to be effective you must do it to the other guy before he does it to you?
How many parents browbeat their children into an elbows-out, ignore-the-rules attitude, either in the playing of sport or in the conduct of their lives, in the belief that this will ‘toughen them up’ and make them less prone to victimization?
How many of us have seen accepted notions of civil behaviour crumble in the face of unwarranted self-entitlement – drivers who tailgate, or block access to parking stalls or gasoline pumps, for example, or people who jump queues and elbow others aside?
Maybe it’s the adults who should be taking a few more oaths to tackle bullying – or, at the very least, a good long look in the mirror.