I was reading Roger Ebert's review of the new film, Bully, and his closing comment really quite struck me:
“Bully” is a sincere documentary but not a great one. We feel sympathy for the victims, and their parents or friends, but the film helplessly seems to treat bullying as a problem without a solution. I can think of one thing that might help. Parents and schools should place great emphasis on the idea that it is all right to be different. Racism and all the other “isms” grow from primitive tribalism, the instinctive hostility against those of another tribe, race, religion, nationality, class or whatever. You are a lucky child if your parents taught you to accept diversity. Teaching prejudice to a child is itself a form of bullying. You've got to be taught to hate.
The fact is that, if we truly want to deal with the phenomenon of bullying at its most fundamental level, bullying must be dealt with at its source. If, as Ebert states, people are taught to hate and by extension, taught to bully, where is this teaching happening? Is it at home, where one parent or the other creates an atmosphere of abuse and therewith gives permission for that activity to persist? Is it in a laissez-faire school environment which treats such behavior as an expected part of child development, to be allowed to run its course, not recognizing that said course can run unchecked into adulthood? Is it in the pervasive attitude that one has to be tough to survive in a dog-eat-dog world on the one extreme or the politically correct efforts to prevent anyone from being offended on the other? Or is it a systemic problem, borne of man's own root nature to distrust that which is different and act out against it?
I agree with Roger that Bully may show us the problem without offering a solution, but then I am not certain that it is the function of such documentaries to provide an answer to the questions they pose. Bully shows us the world as it is for many school children. Its filmmaker and producers went to great lengths to show this world without blinking or censorship. I believe the purpose of this film is, perhaps for the first time, to show its audience the unvarnished truth of what bullying is, to cut through the bullshit about "boys will be boys" and all the other excuses and rationalizations regarding schoolyard behavior and display what is going on As It Is.
That said, I posit that the purpose of Bully is to goad its audience into researching, proposing and providing a solution or solutions to the issue of bullying. With the status quo displayed blatantly on the screen in front of us, the spark may be found to take more coherent action to deal with bullying as a phenomenon at all levels, because as it has been observed elsewhere on A|N, bullying is not restricted to the school environment.
Oh, I fully expect there to be reactionary backlash, the traditional "But my child would never do that" kind of response. Denial of any form of problem isn't surprising, but it also isn't universal. The first step in dealing with a problem is to define and quantify that problem. That task has been tackled at least in part by Bully. It has gathered the evidentiary data for us in graphic form and is at minimum a good start in that effort.
The next step is to act.
Loren, very powerfully and accurately stated.
With documentary “Bully,” Oklahoma families share stories and work for change
“You heard one of the administrators up here (in the film) say it’s a very complicated and complex situation. It’s not. You get what you tolerate. What we’re asking is for this not be tolerated in our schools. When the children and faculty understand that that type of behavior is not to be tolerated, it will stop.”
What is true in schools is true in families.
Wonderfully put, Joan.
Frankly, I'm beginning to think that tolerance as a value is overrated. It has been used in promoting multiculturalism to sanction extremes of religious practice and prejudices religious and otherwise. Tolerance without thought for the impact of what is being tolerated is irresponsible and foolish.
Tolerance as an absolute value is as inappropriate as any other "absolute" value ... mostly because NOTHING is absolute. Questions must be asked, impact must be understood, the needs of the many and of the few both must be considered and respected.
Indiscriminate tolerance should not be tolerated.
I agree, wholeheartedly. Being tolerant of intolerable behavior and attitudes serves no purpose.
Your words should be on the side of buses and on billboards.
Oh, STOP IT! You'll turn my pretty head ... and I don't do the Linda Blair thing well at all! [giggle!]
I agree with Joan. I still need to see that movie. Things are so busy right now though.
Damn Loren, I joined this group just so I could post my response to your topic question, but 1. I don't have the time right now anyway, and 2. I don't see you rephrasing the question anywhere in the body of your post. Nobody else seems to be giving the old college try at answering this question either. But anyway, maybe I'll remember to give my answer when I have time (but probably not). :-(
Actually, I did re-ask the question after multiple fashions:
Is it at home, where one parent or the other creates an atmosphere of abuse and therewith gives permission for that activity to persist? Is it in a laissez-faire school environment which treats such behavior as an expected part of child development, to be allowed to run its course, not recognizing that said course can run unchecked into adulthood? Is it in the pervasive attitude that one has to be tough to survive in a dog-eat-dog world on the one extreme or the politically correct efforts to prevent anyone from being offended on the other? Or is it a systemic problem, borne of man's own root nature to distrust that which is different and act out against it?
I was bullied myself as a kid, Phoenix, because I was different, maybe because I was gay / bisexual and I didn't recognize it in myself at that time, maybe because I was smart and good in class where you weren't supposed to be either and be with the in-crowd. That person exists more in my memory than it does in reality, but it took the better portion of five decades to effect the changes I needed.
I don't know as there's one hard and fast answer. I just know that what answers may be need to be found, less for my sake than those who are growing up in this generation. I went through hell. They shouldn't have to.
Loren I was also bullied (sometimes I still get bullied). I was also different as a child. I am good in class and often the top student and the professors like me. I am also a loner, introverted and reserved. I would get picked on just for not talking. In Ichthyology class I remember a girl picking on me just for not talking and being chatty. Which lead to more people picking on me.
I was never the popular kid or in the in-crowd.
Phoenix-Wanderer -- I actually have several discussions dealing with this and like you I am also busy with school and work.
Here's one of my discussions