Fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd was found dead in a Port Coquitlam home at 6 p.m. Wednesday, five weeks after she posted a heartbreaking video on YouTube detailing how she was harassed online and bullied.
I'm sure her bullies are among the grieving.
Here's a question for you - is it a dog-eat-dog world where only the most competitive survive? Do you have to be tough to get ahead? That's frequently how office politics works. It's certainly how politics proper works. Now, with clamp-downs on information flow, a reduction in social supports and heightened security measures, that's how government policy is working.
If you really believe that a job is the best social program and that people should fight aggressively for the positions that are out there, then you must feel this young woman was a whiner unwilling to do what it takes to survive in this world. Terrible thing that she killed herself, but probably best all around.
Does that shock you? Why would it? We all buy in to political attack ads that denigrate individuals. That's bullying. Despite all the talk about mental health in the work place, aggressive micro-management and bosses with tempers are tolerated as "management styles." Really, though, that's bullying, too. When staff get that favoured talk, "look to your left, look to your right, one of you is going to be gone," that's a way of fostering healthy competition - by encouraging your team to work against each other and come out on top.
It drives me nuts when people try to tell me "but it's different." In what way is it different? Is taunting not bullying when it comes from Members of Parliament? Is calling people useless or worthless not bullying if it's someone's boss saying the lines?
We might not like to look at it this way, but we have a whole culture of bullying:
- Students who are bullied and/or cyber-bullied face increased risk for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal attempts.
Bullied teens commit suicide. Bullied employees underperform, take anxiety meds, end up in ERs thinking they're going to have heart attacks and snap at their families. Folk at the bottom of the social ladder bullied by the social system find their own ways to excise their pent-up cortisol. Even people in prison being treated like rats in cages engage in self-harm. Folk will say that adults should be tougher, that a bit of aggressive smack is healthy for workplace competition, etc. Nobody can ever tell me why, other than to use the confabulated excuse "it's different." That's not good enough.
BC Premier Christie Clark says “No one deserves to be bullied. No one earns it. No one asks for it. It isn’t a rite of passage."
She's missing the point. Bullying isn't an add-on behaviour - it's genetic. Aggressive people bully. They tend to get ahead that way, too, encouraging more of the same. People under resource pressures - like those who are worried about their economic stability when a pink slip comes in the mail - react biologically to their stress with a flight or fight response. Fight might mean bullying the staffer next to you; flight might mean suicide.
We live with this head-smacking cognitive dissonance that bullying is bad but that the solution largely rests in the hands of the bullied. We deplore bullying in one context when we ourselves are bullies in another. The why is easy - we don't want to accept that just maybe, we're responsible and to avoid causing future such challenges, it's us, not them, that need to change.
Bullying if a form of aggressively controlling or minimizing threats from opponents for resources, pure and simple. Very useful genetic tool to have in a survival-of-the-fittest environment, it lets you remove opposition. Rather detrimental in a social context, though, as we can see.
The more resource-challenged people are, the more aggressive or despondent they will become. People who are supremely focused on getting themselves ahead will do so at the expense of others, reducing threats through tactics that embody the very essence of bullying. We like to question the "mental health" of people who commit suicide, but perhaps we should be be dedicating an equal amount of energy looking at the cognitive functioning of their bullies.
It's a culture shift that needs to happen if we are to ever address bullying properly. We owe this to every future Amanda Todd, their families and their communities. Our leaders can decry bullying all they want, but until they start leading by example and exhibiting the behaviour they wish to nurture in our youth, our workplaces and in civil society, no one is going to listen.