We are afraid.
We won’t stand up to bullies publicly because we are afraid of them, their power, their physical dominance or their business place superiority.
We’ve experienced bullying throughout our life and now in our golden years, we watch as others must deal with it. In some cases, those who are bullied suffer fatal consequences. Devan Bracci-Selvey, a secondary school student in Hamilton, was stabbed to death in his school yard by bullies, in the presence of his mother. His mother had reported her son’s being bullied to the school numerous times, to no avail.
We were bullied within our community, in a social club in which we served as one of its executives. The bullies were members of the executive board holding the power of position. They dealt us a fatal workplace blow, extrication without any public hearing.
Our response to bullying/hate
As we are now in advanced years, we cannot respond with physical force to defend ourselves. The same can be said about the workplace bullying. Lacking the political or workplace power to successful self-defense, the matter was allowed to fade away. The bullies in office served out their terms. However, rejoining the organization is not a desired choice. Any organization which has no built-in safeguards to protect its members should be considered not worth joining. We have rejected repeated invitations to re-join the club.
You cannot leave the human race
Any society which lacks safeguards for every one of its members should be avoided. You cannot leave the human race. And to stand up publicly to bullies/hate in any organization or in society in general is to put oneself in a position of risk. Bracci-Selvey chose to continue attending school though he was likely in constant fear. He paid the ultimate price for his bravery.
Defensive systems have limitations
There are some defensive systems in place: in society, the police; in government, ombudsmen; in the workplace…maybe whistle blowers. But whistle blowers risk losing their jobs. Proving the job loss was unfair and illegal may be a serious and very expensive endeavor. The financial power of the organization likely dwarfs that of any whistle-blower.
Get out of the situation
Getting away from the situation is not always a viable choice. In our case, age difference makes running away a doomed option. In the community club case, lacking a strong support system, lacking allies not intimidated by the particular executives, and not being permitted a fair public hearing insured the bullies their victory.
In the case of the workplace or government ombudsman, your guarantee of a fair hearing depends on the fairness and commitment of the ombudsman. Solomon was famous for wise and fair decisions. We need more Solomon’s today. We may some but they may have been intimidated into silence.
School boards failing bullying victims, or else, populated by angels
Recently, the CBC undertook a large-scale study of bullying in the schools. Nearly two dozen school boards listed the number of bullying occurrences within their system as ‘zero.’ Zero! With thousands of students in their school boards, to have no bullying occurrences means your school board is utopia, heaven filled with angels.
The school boards reporting zero occurrences is likely due to wanting to avoid embarrassment or accountability. Reporting occurrences and their victims would have undesirable consequences. The victims, along with their families, would want to know what the school board is doing about it. Doing something about it might be something the school boards want to avoid. Doing something costs money; doing something involves commitment of resources, human, departmental, executive. Doing something also means public embarrassment, particularly if the action taken by the school board seems to have little or no effect; even worse, is failing.
Saving face is poor policy
The Hamilton school board likely does not want to look like it is being run by the public. Hence, their response is to do nothing immediately, nothing tangible at this time. Instead, it has committed to publishing a report in May, seven months from now. Meanwhile, the school doors remain open, students attend regularly and bullies continue their victimization.
Bullying is serious and dangerous. Just ask Bracci-Selvey’s mother how serious. The school board in Hamilton does not see it as serious enough to require immediate action. Could they? Should they?
Hate crimes are also a major problem. They seem to be larger, more open and more public. These people abuse the “freedom of speech” rule of our constitution. Perhaps ‘Big Brother’ needs to define hate speech and regulate it more…however, the police are already overworked.
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