Friday, July 26, 2013

Finding the Antidote to Bullying

 We (individually at Voices Education Project) and collectively as a culture, have done a good job of pointing the finger at bullies and bullying. We have raised consciousness to the ceiling.

But the culture of violence continues. Why?
Because we have created school curricula, documentaries, anecdotes and antidotes; we say "It Gets Better," or "I Choose."

We pronounce with any number of clichés, tired pseudo-encouragement slogans, and we think we motivate change. But as long as we miss the point, support and demonstrate a culture of violence, or perpetuate a disconnect between adult behavior and childrens' bullying, the violence is not going away.

We need to teach and role model social wellness.

We can't have it both ways. We can't mourn for Newtown but place the value of guns above the value of children. We can't favor the purchase of semi-automatic weapons with magazines that hold multiple rounds of rapid fire deadly mini missiles over sensible laws about background checks and responsible ownership. And I've never seen a deer ferocious enough to require an AK-47 to bring it down.

We can't feature bullying, ridiculing at a distance and cat fights on prime time TV and expect our children not to notice. We can't cut someone off in traffic or make a hand gesture that our children witness and expect them to behave compassionately with their peers.

We can't keep dragging our children through the gauntlet of bullying and dismembering people on the front pages of magazines and tabloids at the supermarket checkout and wonder where they learn to post bullying messages on public forums. Public figures, the famous, politicians, and celebrities are people despite the tabloids' deliberate formula to gradually de-humanize them in order to make you more comfortable with bullying them and dismembering them publicly more palatable.

We, as adults and role models can't call others names or epithets, or marginalize and bully other groups and peoples, offer hypocritical and empty speeches or pay only lip service to real problems of real people and social justice; we can't place profit above people or show indifference to someone else's misfortune or rights, or access to work or healthcare; and we can't ignore the common good in favor of the "entitled" few or grab and hoard planetary resources privately that are meant for everyone, and expect our children to be respectful, inclusive, kind or compassionate toward others.

If we don't walk the talk we are not credible. And if we talk the walk and don't walk it, our words are empty, our values are empty and our children will be as empty. Words are employed for violent means all the time, and that is where the disconnect lies. If we don't walk the talk, we have no credibility when we talk to kids about bullying.

Then when communicating with kids, we need to talk their talk or speak their language. Lecturing about bullying doesn't work when hypocritically pious adults preach while at the same time demonstrating bullying to youth with our own behaviors. We can't speak about how unethical bullying is and how dangerous the consequences while we role model it to them.

It's time to connect the dots and walk the talk while talking it." Preaching and anti-bullying rhetoric doesn't work while our own lack of ethics shows. We need to demonstrate the antidote for bullying... compassion, empathy, community building and stewardship.

The new edition of "Words and Violence" features "performance art" because I believe that is the most powerful contemporary forum for demonstration and it's where hope for change lives.

No comments:

A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...