Wednesday, May 23, 2012

on bullying - opening the discussion

 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31
Image borrowed from UCLA “writing success” blog
BULLY: This morning I’m going to open a discussion on bullying. I’m not sure what I’m going to say yet, because posting for me tends to involve thinking out loud. But I do know that I’m not interested in a political slant. In fact, I’ll likely upset both Democrats and Republicans because my first point is this: “Bullying is about the misuse of power, and for many of America’s powerful it is second nature.”
Bullying is a coercive transaction between those with power and those without power, in which power overrides the values our culture claims to stand for, such as fairness, justice, decency, equality, respect, kindness etc.
Bullying occurs anywhere where Christ’s commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a foundational teaching. And that includes many religious institutions and so-called Christian homes, where religion is used as a tool for control rather than a vehicle for teaching the life-charged principles of the Gospel of Love.
PROBLEM: My concern with the current bullying conversation is that it is too limited. The foundational orientation does not go away just because bullies graduate from school. Bullies tend to transfer the ethos to the way they relate to those with less power in the adult world (often as husbands, teachers, coaches, principals, managers, law enforcement officers, airport security etc. etc.).
So I don’t believe the problem is necessarily “So-and-so was a bully in high school.” So much as, “So-and-so still describes such behavior as ‘hijinks’ or ‘boys will be boys,’ or ‘tomfoolery,’ or ‘we didn’t really hurt him, so no-harm no-foul….’”
In other words, many of the people who hold power as adults still fail to see “what the big deal is.”
And why is that? I believe it’s because even today their knee-jerk response to those with less power remains “Hold their arm behind their back and apply pressure till it hurts and make them do whatever it is that you want them to do.”
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE: What I’d like to see is a kind of informal Bill of Rights for the Powerless. The principles really exist already in the text and spirit of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But too many power-holders act as if those are documents of convenience rather than a practical blueprint for making society work.
Here’s an “on the fly” draft:
  • There is no quirkiness, peculiarity, appearance, orientation or variation from the statistical “norm” that makes any human being less equal, valuable or worthy of respect. So LEAVE THEM ALONE!
  • The foundational right of the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not subject to the whim of anyone holding power over them.
  • The statement “All people are created equal” is not mitigated by accessibility to money, influence, intellect or brute strength.
  • That right is also not diminished by age. Children are also “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”
  • The use of power to belittle, coerce, embarrass, detain, frighten, terrorize or otherwise compromise the “all people are created equal” rights of another human being is un-American, and it’s un-American to the very core of our values as a people.
Be excellent to one-another
TRUST: Freedom is predicated on trust, righteousness and mutual respect. In other words, we can’t legislate “nice.” However, we can teach it, and until parents and schools take a more responsible and deliberate interest in the moral development of young people, the United States of America will remain a poor approximation of the society envisioned by the founders.
I’m pushing 700 words, so that’s enough for this preliminary discussion.
Peace (and kindness) – DEREK

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