Monday, February 14, 2011

Lessons Learned From Major Bullying Incidents

People of all ages commit bullying. A bully does what they do with whatever reason in mind and the reason isn't really important. Let's get to the heart of the matter, ok? Acts of bullying happens simply because one person or group of people think that he/she/they are better than whomever they are targeting. Bullies commit their acts because something about another person calls out to them, and that thing that gets a bully's attention is just a mask for the motivation behind it.

Bullying is done out of hate. In each and every single case, hate was a factor. People from all walks of life have triggers for those things that set off their hate response. Bullies have such a strong hate response that they have much difficulty controlling their impulse to act out against someone else. There are many situations when there can be twenty adults present or the offender/victim relationship is actually between two adults and there are people present who are in positions of authority and still, bullies have been known to disregard this protective barrier and act out anyway.

Those who commit the most destructive and gross acts of bullying resulting in critical injuries or death are usually those who were living in isolation due to being silently shoved out of the community and ignored like they aren't even alive. We in America are the worst when it comes to this type of behavior. We are a society who have mastered the game of "provoke and cry victim when something happens."

You've heard of reverse discrimination, and this is basically the scenario that we are working with. We'll call it "reverse bullying" because each and every scenario that has resulted in widely publicized bullying cases where critical injury or death has occurred involves an offender whose life events and whose human condition shows deterioration forced upon them by the entire community based solely on narrow, skin deep perceptions and pre-conceptions. Community members speak about someone being publicized for horrendous actions often state that they saw the offender as being "different", "weird", "lonely", "a loner", "a monster", or a "ticking time bomb", perhaps other mean spirited opinions will be given.

The community, law enforcement, prosecutors, mental health professionals, and legislators will go screaming about how we need speech laws, and new laws against whatever central theme played a role on the offender's acting out. They'll all scream about accountability, choices, red flags, etc. Next, they'll demonize every book, every TV program, every movie, every website, every musician and type of music, and every electronic device, that was a part of the offender's life.

The offender could have made better decisions, but what happens when the offender lives in a community where there are no support systems? Few or no jobs? A failing economy or failing local conditions professionally and socially? What happens when a person's power of choice is taken away from him/her? We are living in those times, people! Funding is rapidly being stripped from social and mental health support systems, leaving the most vulnerable to fend for themselves. In the larger metro areas where state support can tend to be given for those who are teetering on the edge of becoming dangerous, these suffering souls will not seek help because they have learned from others about the poor conditions and lack of resources at these state programs / facilities.

For those who have insurance such as state medical aid or private insurance, help can be hard or even impossible to obtain because of the ever growing health care debates and overall level of chaos and crisis of our systems, especially the very system of health care and support that could help prevent violence by suffering people. These are examples of choices being taken from those who are at real risk of becoming violent.

Our society has become so self-important and self-indulgent that we raise all sorts of noise about public safety and point our fingers everywhere, but we never point our own fingers at ourselves. The lesson we have learned is that we have become both our own victms and also our own antagonizers at the same time. We as a society have become co-dependent, blind, numb, dissociative, warped, deluded, hypocrites. No one deserves to be treated violently, no exceptions unless there is self-defense involved. By the time our offender has acted, the offender has bottled it all up for so long that the mind has melted down.

What lessons have we learned so far from major incidents of bullying? That oftentimes help was offered, but usually the wrong way or in such a haphazard way that the attempt was weak and worthless. We have learned that we have to communicate when we see someone at risk of being violent and really reach out to that person so as to make sure that a support network exists until real help can be had. We have learned that we cannot read into everything but we cannot ignore real signs of impending violence either.

Personality changes of an extreme sort should always be questioned, as should changes in personal taste, personal characteristics, behavior out of character for someone or out of place in any situation, we need to pay attention to someone who becomes infatuated with death and / or violence, things that are beyond your usual "goth" darkness themes, pay attention to someone who starts drinking more than usual. Pay attention to the person who becomes isolated, constantly down in the dumps and hopeless - especially so when the things they once enjoyed in life don't mean anything.

Most people have an expressionate side of some sort and will usually use that to communicate their pain, their misery, their dark desires. While we want to again stress the importance of letting a person be artistic and free to have their voice in their chosen medium, do not ignore obviously direct communications of harm. The key here is "Obviously direct" and not some liberal interpretation of this. No matter where you live, the law says that a threat isn't a threat unless it is a direct threat. This means there has to be substantial direct intent to do harm.

Most of all, we have learned that when we treat our fellow human beings like outcasts and when we judge others out of fear, hate, or some other non-descript trigger, even if it was done because you had a bad day, alienation and bullying eventually mix to create disasters over long periods of time. We have learned that we create our own environment for each other to live in, and we can either stop all the over-reacting, and all of the heated debate about everything and anything, we can stop the misuse of morals and religion, and we can stop forcing our opinions/beliefs/personal ways on others, or we will keep creating the same old revolving door.

We get the environment we create, and in the end we have failed ourselves, and set up these bullies to fail. It's become the American way...the double standard. We have learned that none of us are better than the next person.

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