Friday, September 14, 2012

Mockery—The Permissible Form of Bullying?

Working against bullying is a big deal in schools, as well it should be. I've seen workshops, policies, text hotlines, and more. Some efforts seem more effective than others, and for some, I really have no idea whether they work or not. When teens already know they shouldn't do something, does telling them it's wrong again really stop them if they're so inclined?

Not sure. The main things I feel I can do are make it clear that I won't tolerate bullying in my classroom, and more importantly, set a good example.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of example we set amongst ourselves, though. Especially in this age of social media.

As I browse through my Twitter lists, it's mostly fun, games, and good information. There are also opinions, which are great. What's not so great is when opinions are of a type akin to "Anyone who thinks this way/votes this way/belongs to this party or organization is an idiot AND a lesser human being."

I'm nowhere near perfect, but whenever I disagree with someone, I do try to come at it from an angle that isn't judging them as a person. It takes a lot of effort—sometimes a crap-ton of effort, sometimes more effort than I can manage—but often I can get myself to the following head-space:

Their view on this is the total opposite of mine. We couldn't disagree more on this. But I see where they're coming from, and coming from there, what they think is reasonable for them. I still believe what I think is reasonable for me. We see it differently, and that's okay.

I have friends all along various spectrums—political, religious, whatever—so this mindset is very important to me. They're fabulous people—even the ones who hate math!

If a student vocally, stridently denigrated (for instance) people who buy into creationism, or gay people, or people who own guns, or people who have a live-in boyfriend ... if they did that in the middle of class, knowing there's every likelihood that someone in the room falls into that category, would we let it go?

Why, then, is it okay to watch a political party convention (either one) and go to town with mocking tweets, declaring the utter stupidity of everyone associated with that party?

Because we're adults and should be able to take it? Isn't that the old response to bullying? "You need to toughen up and just take it." Because we're free to fight back? That always goes well.

My opinion (and yes, just my opinion, so you can disagree): The way forward is in understanding. Not necessarily agreement. Definitely not homogeneity. But understanding where other views come from, and trying to find common ground.

Mockery closes doors and raises walls. My hope is that we all (myself included) will remember to think before we tweet (or post, or whatever). Who will be on the receiving end? Might I be actively insulting them by saying this?

Are my words hiding hate behind a veil of snark?

And what kind of example am I setting for future generations?


Anonymous said...

"what they think is reasonable for them"

I think that's the key. It's so much easier to assume *I* know what reality is and others do not. To step into empathy, we must first try to mentally walk in someone else's shoes. For me, empathy is the opposite of mockery, bullying, hate, dichotomizing, etc. And like you said, it's hard work.

I guess it's either human nature or human habit to constantly separate everyone into "us" and "them" categories. I have to use my brain and heart a lot more the larger that "us" category gets. Some of us seem to like that kind of exercise, some are empathy couch potatoes, and some just haven't thought about it and react out of habit.

Or at least, that's how I think right now. I may change my mind when I see more discussion. :)

Johanna Quille

Jennie Bozic said...

Ack, blogger just ate my reply.

I wholeheartedly agree with this post and I've been thinking about this topic a lot over the past several weeks. I've unfollowed several agents over that time due to tweets that fall along these lines. I just don't have the patience for it anymore.

I welcome thoughtful, respectful discussion on any and all issues. There's a time and a place for such discussion and it sure isn't on Twitter where you're confined to 140 characters.

I used to "fight back", which I now realize was stupid and ignorant. If people have given in to mocking, you know their hearts are already closed to hearing and understanding other opinions.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, RC, and so timely.

I am like you in that I try to understand others and where they come from even if I don't agree with their stance. Or should I say especially when I don't?

Through my line of work, I learned long ago that there is no such thing as common sense. What is obvious to some may feel completely foreign to others because of their life journeys. Ridiculing, hating, bashing or arguing against a person is never right. Respectfully discussing perspectives is never wrong.

Alas, it is so hard to let go of our need to defend what we know and listen to another point of view.

Sadly, however, we allow slander to seep into our vocabularies and beliefs and make it a them against us fight. On the internet, no less, where we can hurt so many people with our unkind words.

If even one person walks away from your post today and examines his/her behavior then you've done a great thing!