Personally, I loathe the word "bully." There's nothing wrong with it as a word, but it's been smeared with such ridiculous connotations that it's hard to get people to evaluate a situation if you use that word to describe it. They immediately jump to the silliest conclusions.
I know I've written about this before, but it was some time ago, and I don't think many people read it. Likewise, I tried to use Tai's Story to get a similar message across, but I didn't do a very good job - it was mostly part of the first half of the story, and I'm certainly not happy with how that first half measures up.
So let me just jump into this.
Firstly, people assume whenever you talk about "bullying" that you mean "harmless, character-building antics." Wedgies. Asinine name-calling - oh, just don't react and they'll stop doing it. Beat up the ring-leader; he might even become your best friend. We've all heard the spiel.
Let's get this clear: that is not an accurate concept of bullying. Bullying is a vague, weak word, with connotations of childish insubstantiveness.
In reality, "bullying" is better described as "destructive criminal activity."
When you're talking about "bullying" nowadays, especially when you're talking about kids over the age of ten, you could be discussing anything from mild-teasing to - no-shit - unprovoked assault, theft, and property damage.
There's nothing cute and "Sandlot"/"Charlie-Brown" about it. It's criminal behavior, sometimes more akin to gang activity than schoolyard hijinks - but that's how it's generally treated. Nothing is done to protect the victims. They're given useless advice, told to man up, and their parents generally never get to understand the scope of what their kids are going through, because they can't see the reality for the silly cartoon stereotypes.
Yes, people, I'm dealing with this now. Again. No, I'm not the "victim", but I know the victims. Children in my ostensibly nice suburb are terrified to leave their houses; some of them won't walk to one another's houses even if they're only 3 minutes away unless they have an adult escort. They can't leave anything outside in their fenced off back-yard because dipshits scale the fence and steal their bikes (one boy has lost 3 bikes in one year; another had theirs brazenly stolen from them while at our community Christmas concert). They've been assaulted, taunted, and had houses broken into, been pelted with rocks & eggs, gardens destroyed, bins overturned, mailboxes smashed to bits...
Oh, and we're talking kids from the age of 9-14 here. This is bullying. The word is even what the kids use: "Oh, shit, those are the bullies! Can we go around, please?!"
I've had kids hide behind me because some little dickhead is standing right there threatening to "fuckin' smash [them], cunt".
This is just a suburb in Australia. Normal, non-criminal kids are afraid to leave their houses and walk around their neighborhood, even with their parents, because of this bullshit.
Stand up to the ringleader, go on, little eleven year old. He's only bigger, older, stronger, used to being hit and hitting people, more violent and confident than you. Hey, let's say you beat him up! Well, he'll get his 18 year old drug-addict cousin to come and fucking hospitalize you. He won't become your friend, by the way; he's not lonely and misunderstood, he is part of a gang of shitheads.
They don't have a sense of honor or anything like that. Are you kidding me? They're not "putting you down to make themselves feel big." They're assaulting and hurting you because they like assaulting and hurting people. Big difference.
As for why they're doing that - it's not always as simple as "oh, they come from bad homes." You're right, they do, but don't necessarily think that's true in any way that means you need to feel all that sorry for them. Their parents are usually neglectful and encourage their behavior, not necessarily beating their kids or whatnot.
You don't get amusing wedgies and swirlies. You get punched in the face. While sitting at your desk minding your own business. In school. Then you get a brick through your window at home.
Someone asked me in the "AMA" journal why I got into youth rights. Believe it or not, this is a key reason why. People need to understand and respect young people, and not trivialize things about them. "Bullying" isn't just kiddy tomfoolery; it's often violent, brutal, anti-social, criminal behavior that messes victims up.
So proper understanding and respect for youths is necessary to understand the nature of these things; and to understand that you cannot excuse criminal behavior by saying that the fifteen-year-old perpetrator is "just a kid." They know what is right and wrong. To fail to act is to be incredibly unfair to the vast majority of good, moral young people who get hurt by this shit, and by society's inaction.
We also need to understand that it is indeed only a small minority that engage in this behavior. All ire needs to be reserved for the little dipshits who make life hard for others.
If anything, empowering/enfranchising and respecting youths would logically lead to them being held reasonably accountable for their actions, and fairer treatment across the board. That is what got me into youth rights.
People misinterpret my journals and stories as saying that I'm against "harsh" punishments for juvenile delinquents. No. I'm against ineffective punishments. Some of them need help, some of them need something else. More than anything, I don't see why the good and well-adjusted should have to suffer for the "good" of the criminal. Nor do I see why the proper assholes need to be lumped in with the kids who made a few bad choices. I know that locking them up doesn't work, and I know that parental "spanking" is more likely to create these little monsters than stop them, but frankly?
If these little shits in my area could be rounded up and birched until they could barely breathe for their bawling - televised across the nation, of course - then I'd call that justice. For the crime of "bullying." Stop them hurting others first and foremost!
As for the parents? Maybe they deserve to be punished too. Maybe it's their fault. Maybe they deserve thrice the punishment. But here's the trap of ageism - it can work in reverse. How is it fair for us to claim that teenagers are intelligent and worthy of respect, but then claim that they can't ever be responsible for their own actions and decisions? How can it possibly always be the parents' fault, and how can we presume that they'll be able to just "fix" the problem?
It's too late to punish the parents anyway, the damage is done. They can't "reign" their kids in with any amount of beatings. Too late.
For the record, yes, some of these little local arsewipes have been sent to juvie. I don't know how much of an improvement that's made, because the biggest problem is the fact that most of them have not been "punished." I.E., "had anything done about their behaviour whatsoever." This is my point: the government does nothing. It turns a blind eye. So long as these kids only mostly torment other kids, then it doesn't matter to the government. It's not criminal behavior; it's "only bullying."
They're in the god damn neighborhood in the first place because the government gave their families free housing. I'm paying for these little wankers to live in my community, terrorize the kids and vandalize our area. Hurray. Excuse me, but why are unemployed criminal families living in my neighborhood that costs $400,000+ to buy a house in, or $500+ a week to rent? Oh, right, they got it for free.
I've known many "delinquent" kids. A lot of them were, oddly, very decent guys and gals. I personally, believe it or not, was not an angel - I was a pretty good shoplifter, actually*. Not all of them are bad; a lot of them just do some dumb stuff for dumb, but very real, reasons, and are never happy with themselves for doing so (Wayle in Tai's Story). But some of them are just too far gone.
When you're talking about kids bullying, you could be talking about charismatic, yet sneaky little shits who get a free pass for their awful behavior, because they're actually the kind of kids the teachers like or are good at manipulating. Or you could be talking about full-blown young criminals.
In neither case is it okay to trivialize what they do. "Bullying" isn't something to be tolerated; it doesn't build character. It isn't a fact of life (it's rarely encountered in the adult world; but people ignore the seriousness of it when it involves kids). It can destroy childhoods and wreck educations. It isn't done for "good reasons." It's not "kids being kids." There is no quick-and-easy, feelgood way of handling it.
Mild schoolyard teasing is just one end of a very dark and disturbing scale. Often it's a very serious social issue with deep and complex roots.
And I'm fucking sick of seeing it trivialized, sick of seeing the stupid feel-good platitudes, and I'm fucking sick of being the only one trying to do anything about it.
And I'm sorry. But this is the only place I can vent about it. >.>
* - I often paid the stores back. I'd come in next time I had cash, buy something, and walk out without the change. So shush.