Just Occurred…Bullying Is Not Confined to Grade School: Part 1..

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One of the benefits of the information age, where we can transmit current events, sometimes instantaneously, is the suggestion of enhanced inner connectedness with one another.   The increase in reported bullying among school age youth throughout America from the more affluent suburban school districts, to the more distressed, struggling classrooms, seems to have exploded in the last ten years.  Yet, we all know that bullying is not new.

Have you ever seen the 1955 movie, Blackboard Jungle, starring Glen Ford, Ann Francis and a very young, Sidney Portier?   Blackboard Jungle depicts unrestrained, classic, bullying so insidious that it permeated not just the inner-city classroom, but encroached, dangerously into the personal lives of the staff, as well.  Over fifty-five years ago when the movie hit the theaters, the focus was not so much on bullying.  No, instead, Blackboard Jungle was made to make an alarming social statement about the risks America faced if the public school desegregation mandate of 1954 failed.

We all know that bullying preceded the movie and continues, even today, among every demographic .  Yet, not until the Internet and twenty-four hour news programming transmitted, in real time, violent massacres such as the Columbine High incident and suicides, resulting from incessant bullying, did the subject become of interest to healthcare professionals, law enforcement and all three branches of government.  Google “Bullying” and government Web sites are among the results.  And while bullying in and of itself is certainly a standalone subject, it Just Occurred to me that bullying like all of the most dangerous things in which children engage, is emulated adult behavior.

As I reflect on both my personal and professional experiences, it seems that every aspect of ‘growing up’, and I use that term loosely, has been fueled by power struggles cloaked in everything, but power struggles.  For example, one of my earliest memories was the fear of death my parents held over my siblings and me and the many, many ways we studied and manipulated them to get our own way, in spite of the fear.

Do not think for one moment that our parents were any different from all parents that we knew growing up; especially among the two parent families.  With six of us (for the most part all pretty intelligent and quite creative), we connived and finagled our way around every rule that that hard-working, socially conscious, financially strapped couple set in place to control us.  Were our parents our first bullies?  I think so, or, at the very least, they were the first people who exerted their authority with coercion – authorized coercion.  I understand that instituting barriers and rules is a far cry from the classic definition of bullying, but psychologically and egotistically, bullying may be, merely, the exaggerated, unauthorized, expression of parenting.

Consider that children are forced, beyond their personal will, under the authorized coercion of their parents and teachers (and government though most children have no concept of that) to attend school and perform precisely as they are told – no objections permitted.  Depending on the school , some children will encounter their first peer-to-peer bully as early as kindergarten – you know, the child who for any number of reasons, decides they will begin the school year by establishing a pecking order with him or her as flock leader.  And, unless the adult in charge is very perceptive, these pint-sized bully starter-kits have learned enough in their home environments to understand the true pecking order and avoid detection.

High school is too often the breeding ground for more organized bullying.  This is a time when hormones (which I personally believe need FAR more research as they relate to our motivations, actions and reactions) are raging and unique personality traits become more ingrained and pronounced.  In addition, the number of television programs, movies and violent video games that are accepted parts of America’s entertainment culture, have imprinted thousands and thousands of examples of how and why power is integral to success.  By puberty, the kindergarten bully, left unchecked, may very well escalate power struggles among peers, teachers and parents.  Or the timid child decides that they have had enough subjugation and begins to exert personal power of his or her own.

College is not much better.  As my siblings and I learned in early childhood, cerebral oftentimes proves more powerful than physical.  If the bully or bullied makes it past high school, then college is the place to hone the art of war and begin to demonstrate a truly competitive edge over the less ambitious.  Fraternity/Sorority hazing, academic and graduate school placement competitions are all fertile ground for establishing order.

Once we enter the workforce, the adage, dog-eat-dog, begins to make practical sense.  Power, greed and employing teams to support bullying and establish control is the elephant in every boardroom, corner office and corporate cafeteria.  If the work setting is a government office, then the art of politics supersedes the art of war.  The result, though, is the same; to establish power, leadership and control regardless of how small the target or how insignificant the perceived gain.

Part 2 Coming Soon.

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10 responses »

  1. Yes, I am afraid I must agree with your report of the escalations of bullying, however, the first fear I have ever had, was that of Pastor Talley, of New Light Baptist Church. He very much “bullied” me with his words and expressions that if I did not adhere to the rules, all of them; parent, school, the Bible, I would indeed burn in hell! Of course I am still standing, and yes I learned to adhere to rules and regulations ( at least those I could not get around). But, I understand why some churches ( an intricate part of our upbringing), established a children church! Because, the thought of God Almighty bullying them to follow the rules, sets them up for being the victim. All it takes is for someone to roar at them! Looking forward to part 2.

    • Claudia: Thank you for stopping by and leaving this comment. It reminded me that my God was used as a bully but I was such a goody two shoes as a child, that I wasn’t afraid because I wasn’t going to do anything wrong! LOLOL But, truthfully, the God of the Old Testament is a punishing God.

  2. If the Bible being the root of all law, and “human, being”.. made in his image. It may be woovin so deep into our very fabric to become dominate over one another…….

  3. Can’t wait for part 2. Makes me reflect on the effects that all the parent, school, church and peer bullying has had on decisions I have made in my life. WOW! And if that’s not bullying, I don’t know what is. Keep writing!

  4. I really enjoyed this and it was certainly food for thought. You established by many examples how the act of bulling was not only done through out life from early childhood, but beyond the collegiate stage into the workforce. A few questions that comes to mind is how was this behavior first demonstrated with in the human race. Why is it that not all people adhere to this type of behavior in persuit of a desired result. Thank you for your thought provoking subjects. Looking forward to Part 2.

    • Carlene: Thanks for stopping by and especially for your thought provoking questions. I have my personal beliefs about why some people demonstrate blatant bullying behaviors and other don’t and I may have addressed some reasons in Part 2, but in truth, I don’t know the answer to that question, definitively. Regarding when was the behavior first demonstrated in humans, I think that would depend on who you ask. Some say Cain and Able. I have a dog walking acquaintance who is an anthropologist, and I will ask her what she thinks and get back to you.

    • Carlene: Thanks for stopping by and especially for your thought provoking questions. I have my personal beliefs about why some people demonstrate blatant bullying behaviors and other don’t and I may have addressed some reasons in Part 2, but in truth, I don’t know the answer to that question, definitively. Regarding when was the behavior first demonstrated in humans, I think that would depend on who you ask. Some say Cain and Able. I have a dog walking acquaintance who is an anthropologist, and I will ask her what she thinks and get back to you.

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