Thursday, June 30, 2011

167. Bullying has become a way of life

I admit I like the show Glee. My wife and I enjoy the singing and dancing, silly story lines and variety of characters. We also enjoy that the show tackles some social issues, such as religion, prejudice and bullying.

Deservingly so, and not just on Glee, we've heard a lot about bullying lately. It comes in many definitions and types and can affect children in different ways. There is physical and mental bullying as well as cyber-bullying and psychosocial bullying-probably just to name a few. Surprisingly, perhaps, one of the groups on the rise is girls bullying other girls. The efforts set forth by many to reduce it, or react to it, is commendable and many entities offer good advice to that end.

However, if we look around, we might find that bullying is not just a thing that children must deal with. In fact, if we are objective, we might consider that bullying is a learned behavior and children are learning from the world around them. We might even consider, and make the somewhat facetious argument, that learning how to deal with bullies is a valuable asset for children and they will be better adjusted when they are bullied as adults.

The adult world is full of bullies and similarly they come in many diverse forms. There are political bullies, economic and industrial bullies, corporate bullies, media bullies, religious and intellectual bullies, and military bullies-just to name a few. They are not all physical-in the traditional "might makes right" sense-but they are just as aggressive and have the same ability to make people uncomfortable and affect lives.

Not only Americans, but also many parts of the world felt the Bush-Cheney administration bullied their way through American politics-with the war in Iraq, tax cuts for the wealthy, the justification of torture and the Patriot Act as just a few examples.

The political bullying has not ended, however, and the easiest and most recent example has been the assault of the right of public employees to bargain collectively. Insulting almost everyone along the way, politicians such as Wisconsin's Scott Walker, Ohio's John Kasich and New Jersey's Chris Christie have ignored large-scale protests and avoided any public discussion to bully through their political agendas.

But it is not just politics. Many would make the argument that corporations are indeed the ones running this country-by holding states and communities hostage, being able to pressure legislatures (even more so now with the Citizen's United decision) and demanding public bailouts. Corporations are so intimidating that whistleblowers statutes have had to be enacted to ensure the safety of informers.

Oil companies continue to raise prices, rake in enormous profits and somehow loophole their way out of paying corporate taxes. We are at their mercy. Other companies are reporting significant profits, yet refusing to hire more employees. Factory farmers are working in several states to make it a felony to record the atrocities that take place in their businesses. Pharmaceutical companies have bullied the United States to become one of only two countries that permit prescription medication advertisement on television.

The financial industry further bullied the legislatures and American public into public rescue as being "too big to fail." Wall Street arrogantly, and still defiantly, made bad business decisions-ruining the lives of millions-and not only escaped accountability, but also continues to flaunt larger profits and bonuses.

Religion often bullies its beliefs on not only its followers, but also into society. Portraying discourse as offensive, it chastises those that do not believe or believe as they do. Furthermore, it acts to control societal change by, for example, working to cut off funding for contrary viewpoints like Planned Parenthood and banning gay marriage.

There are many more examples across a spectrum of perspectives. Adult bullying is perhaps a bit more subtle, but no less uncomfortable and harmful. People often feel powerless to fight against those much stronger than they are. This strength, however, comes in many different forms-though it typically occurs as a financial occurrence or social pressure. It follows the simple golden rule, "He who has the gold, makes the rules."

Unfortunately, bullying is a part of our entire lives. Bullies exist because they know their reasons and arguments often fail and need to resort to pressure and influence to get what they want. Bullies usually make the calculated assumption that people will give up, accept it or move on with their lives. However, one of the best ways to deal with societal bullies is to outnumber them, stand up to them and fight back.

Surprisingly, they often back down

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