Bullies and How They Impact Our Society
Table of Contents
I. Abstract (Summary)
II. Define Bullying
III. Type of Bullying
A. Verbal & Non-Physical
A. Why some bully others.
B. Describe those who get bullied.
VI. Consequences of Ignoring Bullying
B. Schools & Authorities
VII. Personal Opinions
A. Officer Michael Howard
B. School Teacher
When one hears the term "bully", one may begin to think of television characters like "Butch" from The Little Rascals, "Mad Dog" or "SweetDaddy" from Good Times, or Mafia gangsters like "Scarface". The aforementioned characters are very indicative of the different kinds of bullies that are in our society. As often stated, art imitates life. Most people, as they watched these characters on television, were able to identify with them whether directly or indirectly. There may have been characters that reminded viewers of themselves or that reminded them of some other person whose path they may have crossed in their life time. It is probably safe to assume that everyone has bullied some other person or has been bullies by another person. There are many reasons that people become bullies or intimidators of others. So many people in this society are not good communicators or do not possess the adequate compassion or concern for the understanding of other people. This lack of compassion and misunderstanding translates into various types of bullying - verbal, emotional and physical. Many times we have seen the profound impact of bullying in our schools, within home environments and in the numerous correctional facilities across this nation. Social activists are continually fighting the authorities of this world to address and abate the harsh existence of bullying in this world.
Bullies: How They Impact Our Society
The world is full of a wide range of emotions and sentiments. It seems that nearly all sentiments can be classed within one of two broad categories: love or hate. The category of love encompasses such feelings as compassion, warmth, honor, loyalty and respect for oneself and mankind. On the other hand, the category of hate comprises more negative connotations such as inconsideration, wickedness, iniquity, animosity, envy and inhumanity. The latter category modifies a particular faction of our society - bullies. A bully, per the New Concise Webster’s Dictionary, 1984 edition, is a cowardly, lawless, obnoxious person who threatens or torments a weaker person. Almost every circle of friends or associates has one individual who could be classed as the group bully. More plainly, amongst any group of persons, there are varying mental, physical and psychological components or capacities. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who consciously decide to physically display the variation in the mental or physical fortitude of themselves and others. It is a scientifically - proven fact that no two human beings are exactly alike, even identical twins. Therefore , it should be very clear and evident that though all men are created equal, we are not all of the exact or precise mental or physical consistency. However, in too many cases, those persons who possess the more superior personal ingredients or rudiments consciously dominate, intimidate, bludgeon, coerce or bully weaker persons into compliance with their personal selfish agendas. This element of bullying seems to transcend all economic, political, religions, and racial barriers or lines. Consequently, bullying has had and still does have both short-term and long-term effects on many components and persons in and of our society.
As stated earlier, bullying is or can be any action or series of behavior in which a stronger person pressures another to conform in ways that are pleasing to the stronger. Bullying can be also labeled as abuse. The technical meaning of abuse is misuse, improper use or maltreatment - physical or verbal. Anytime persons are persuaded by others to act, behave, or function more according to the desires of another than to their own, there is probably sufficient circumstances to constitute abuse or misuse. Some individuals misuse or misapply the bond of sanctity of many of the relationships in their lives. There are always reported cases of abuse or misapplication of one’s privileges within marriages. So often, loved ones take advantage of their emotional or communal connection with other individuals( Martin,1992). Husbands, unfortunately, sometimes will expect, demand and strongly insist that their wives do certain undesirable chores. Of course this type of abuse is perpetrated in both directions - husbands upon wives and wives upon husbands. Many times parents misapply their parental control towards their own children. This is one way that some children obtain their bully-type behavior and unsympathetic tendencies. Varying levels of bullying exist within family and social relationships. Historically and statistically, the boyfriend -girlfriend relationship is the most dramatic in terms of mental and physical abuse occurrences. Domestic, date and social violence incidents are reported just as often, if not more than, any other criminal or civil offense known to mankind. Men and women are constantly at odds with each other it seems.
It simply seems to be natural for human beings to rate, judge, mistreat or manipulate each other. Even between best friends, there are occasional episodes of manipulation or periods where one friend is not as considerate of the other’s well being or condition. Every best-friend relationship has probably suffered moments when a friend has taken the friendship for granted or abused the allegiance of their union. Even amongst siblings and cousins, abuse or bullying runs rampant. There is an old adage that says that one should never go into business with one’s family members. Similarly , it is believed by many that one should never lend money to one’s family members. It is proven continually throughout time that if these types of contracts are not entered into with great caution, the probability that some level of presumption or impudence will surface is at least great. When family members are in business together, there is always a time when the boss is more lenient with his brother-in-law who is also his store manager because he is the boss’s wife’s baby brother. This leniency may actually be detrimental to the productivity of the business. Additionally, the brother-in-law may conveniently remind the boss that his wife (the brother-in-law’s big sister) would not be happy to hear that her baby brother is being treated unfairly on the job. This is a simple example of how family members are bullied by other family members when money is in the equation. Some relatives are slow to repay loans from other relatives, if at all, assuming that there will be no legal or criminal repercussions imposed upon them by their loved ones. This way the generous relative that loaned the money has truly been abused and mistreated by the less compassionate relative.
Many people would label such inconsiderate treatment of another person as intimidation. Intimidation means to make timid or to compel one to do by the use of threats or similar conduct. It is truly an abomination when one person has to reduce himself to using fear tactics in order to get a particular desired response from another individual (Shreve,1993). People, ideally ought to be compassionate and considerate of each other’s wants, desires, goals, and overall best interest. We find that this absence of compassion is existent in our American schools and certainly in our prison system. Per my interview with Ms. Mattese Miller, a well-seasoned 23-year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the United States Military Forces, it became overly apparent to me that the bully-mentality has been and still is very prevalent in both of these and most of all government agencies. Ms. Miller stated that employees and affiliates of the United States Government are simply products of their environment. She believes that, as with a parent-child relationship the fruit doesn’t fall too far from the tree, the same is true of government employees(Miller,2002).The government, by the account of many, is a very domineering-type organization. The military instills bully behavior within its personnel from the very first moment of Basic Training. Drill sergeants utilize intimidation strategies and tactics to discipline, motivate, and develop young men and women into quality soldiers. Consequently, the bully tendencies within these soldiers is cultivated and often applied inappropriately or otherwise, throughout their military careers. Ms. Miller stated that the intimidation element of prisons is unparalleled in this society. Prisons have, it seems, the highest concentration of this world’s manipulators physically confined in centralized locations. Manipulative persons are by definition intimidating, threatening and inconsiderate of their prey or victim. Prisoners, customarily, prey on their fellow inmates, their family members, and correctional staff. Ms. Miller spoke of inmates grouping together according to their geographic origin. For instance, the inmates from the Washington, D.C. area control the basketball courts on the Prison recreation yard. They actually charge all inmates to play ball on the prison basketball courts. Likewise, the Italians control the Bocci ball pits, the Hispanics the Handball walls and the Sunni Muslims control the Chapel. Inmates will bully each other for Commissary goods, sneakers and anything else that they can trade and gain money. Just like the vicious predators they are, many inmates pressure family members on the outside to send them money and drugs into the prison solely for their personal benefits. Similarly, inmates take advantage of gullible and vulnerable staff members to get illegal contraband items (food and drugs) delivered to them inside. All these examples are ones exhibiting acts of considerable inconsideration and intimidation. Like many other things in life, our children learn bad behavior through the experiences that they are subjected to in their childhood.
There are a couple of categories of bullying - verbal and physical. I will address verbal bullying initially since it is generally the origination of even the most severe forms of bullying (Balan, 2002). I dare say that one of the most well- known proverbs is ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me’. Any victim of verbal bullying would strongly contest the validity of the proverb. Verbal bullying includes vocal taunting, name-calling and any type of verbal ‘put-down’. The intent of this verbal abuse is to hurt or humiliate other human beings. Most times, there is a perceived distinction in the power or size of the parties of a bully-victim relationship. Bullies verbally abuse weaker persons or gradually weaken others by way of the harsh words used towards them. Verbal bullying is not the same as teasing because bullying involves repetitive attacks on the same person. Words can truly be piercing to the confidence of a person. When I was in elementary school, students called each other four-eyes, bean pole, HUMPTY-DUMPTY, brace-face and jelly belly. These names are very short and simple names but can induce very profound pain and suffering within the lives of some already insecure children. Students frequently make verbal commands and threats towards each other. Students, like many adult bullies, are cowardice creatures who are in search of attention, love or power. Verbal bullying is the easiest kind of bullying because it is swift and to the point. It also does not leave any physical scars. Verbal attacks can be clearly the most profoundly damaging type of bullying because it alters a person’s self confidence, and often times has long-lasting effects on a persons sense of self-worth. Because there are no physical scars, verbal bullying often goes undetected. Many persons, or victims, are shame of the fact that they are being seen as different and they fear retaliation or continual attacks if they report the abuse. The verbal bullying can be just as devastating as physical abuse because the invisible scars are mental, or psychological. These mental bruises can be temporary or long-term. Oftentimes, they manifest themselves on the interior and evolve into depression, despair, desperation and low self-confidence or self-esteem.
When I was in the fourth grade, my teachers asked if I would mind escorting another young guy to his classes. I learned quickly that he was not so intelligent. However, other children still insensitively gave him a nickname - Dufus. His birth name was Jody Mills. He was resentful of the name initially but he eventually accepted this harsh slander. Periodically, he would say to me, "Mikey, why they call me that? My name ain’t no Dufus!" For years I noticed that he would be apprehensive about being around these certain individuals who labeled him "Dufus" over twenty years ago. As previously stated, verbal attacks pierce deeply and have long lasting effects on some persons. Similarly in Susan Shreve’s Joshua T. Bates Takes Charge, one of the lead characters, Tommy Wilhelm and his gang of bullies, bullied Johnny Hayes. They referred to him more affectionately as "Jell-O Hayes" because he was "big and fleshy with a belly that hung over his belt"(Shreve,1993). Jell-O was a very good student and was liked by teachers but disliked by most students. He like many victims of bullying, wanted to be liked by his classmates so badly that he did a lot of silly deeds to gain their favor. He allowed them to bully him into doing their homework assignments, verbally condemning himself and ultimately performing poorly in the classroom. He never reported the abuse to school officials because he wanted to be ‘one of the boys’ so very much. Tommy Wilhelm, the lead bully, actually wanted to befriend Jell-O Hayes because he knew him from the neighborhood. However, Tommy’s hector reputation would not permit him to buddy up with such a nerd as Jell-O Hayes. This situation or story is, unfortunately, commonplace in the lives of many children of this world. Verbal bullying often develops or evolves into physical bullying.
The form of bullying that has the most direct and immediate negative repercussions is physical bullying. Verbal attacks could take time to have substantial effects on its victim(s) but physical bullying induces instant responses and ramifications(Johnston,1996). This type of bullying can occur very early in a child’s life. There are times when babies fight each other for toys as young one and two years old. Daycare givers are continually noting to parents that their baby bullies the other babies in the daycare center. So these tendencies and actions seem to be almost naturally instinctive because no one had to teach the bully baby how to bully other babies. Therefore, as children get older, some of them misapply or misdirect their feelings of low self esteem, despair and resentment in a way of bullying others in the neighborhood or at school. In any circle of associates there is the group bully. The neighborhood bully is usually the oldest or biggest in stature of all the kids on the street. He or she would take the weaker kid’s new basketball that was given as a birthday gift from his or her grandmother even. The kid would not report this to community authorities because he wants to be "cool" in the eyes of other kids. Besides, no one wants to be labeled a "rat" or a snitch. The uncooperative victim of verbal threats usually suffers the wrath of physical bullying. That same bully would be the guy to make his victim change their usual route to and from school to avoid the physical abuse from the bullies. In Shreve’s Joshua T. Bates Takes Charge, the school bullies were notorious for coercing the nerds to pay for their lunch each day or given the beating of their lives (Shreve,1993). Many days, school officials have had to restore order in the hallways as the nerds would be yelling very loudly for help because the bullies had stuffed and locked them inside their 1.5 feet by four feet school lockers. The victims knew that they were expected to bring extra food or money for the bullies or be subjected to some type of physical bullying. At Bates’ school there was nearly a ritual of the bullies and nerds meeting on the playground to exchange lunch monies or the bullies would take turns slapping the nerds who could not produce extra sandwiches or money.
In Martin’s Karen’s Bully, Karen was one uncooperative young girl to the desires of one particular school bully, Bobby (Martin,1992). She felt Bobby had a crush on her and knew no other way to express his affection to her. Bobby made verbal outbursts in class and in the hallways to try and embarrass her in front of other schoolmates. Through it all, to the surprise of other children who feared Bobby, Karen always stood her ground against Bobby in hopes that he would eventually leave her alone. However, because he was infatuated with her and they really were not mature enough to handle it, he persisted in the attempts to bully Karen. Coincidentally, Bobby and his parents moved into Karen’s neighborhood later in the school year. Bobby made several references in school about terrorizing Karen’s neighborhood and family once he moved into his new house. Of course, Karen not being afraid to challenge Bobby, she assured him that if he thought he was going to take over the neighborhood, he would be sadly disappointed. As a bully would, Bobby accepted the challenge and generated havoc up and down the street. He bullied child after child, even Karen’s brother, Andrew. This was the ‘final straw’ for Karen. One evening after school, Bobby threatened and beat Andrew so badly that Andrew began to fake illnesses so he would not have to face "Bobby the Bully" at school or at the neighborhood park. Subsequently, the next time that Bobby teased Karen about how weak her brother was, she challenged him and they fought like two boys. Bobby was one bully who was humbled by the very same person off which he earned his reputation (Martin, 1992).
Bullies come in a variety of fashions - young, old, big and small. In the same manner, there are many reasons that individuals bully others. A primary reason is that the bully type treatment of others is all they have ever known in their personal family lives(Johnston, 1996). So they actually are deficient in their communication skills. They do not know how to treat other persons with compassion and concern. In most cases, bullies have been mistreated or abused by their own siblings or loved ones; therefore, they trat others the same way so they won’t feel like they are being bullied. Secondly, bullies, often times, have low self-esteem or a low sense of self-worth. They don’t like themselves so they hurt others so that they are not upset by themselves. They are generally jealous of other people’s achievements so they try to tear down others to their low levels of confidence. The bully is also usually truly scared and afraid of others or things. They have the misconception that if they show how tough they are ,then people won’t realize how scared they are. Many times they simply are lonely and have no responsible adults with whom they can confer or discuss their frustrations.
The victims of bullying are an interesting group of human beings. Actually, the bully, the victim is usually one who is weak and of a low self esteem. They are not certain of who they are so they allow others to trat them any kind of way. These are the type of people that end up having to learn that if you don’t stand for yourself, people will make a mockery of you. These are the same individuals who will do anything to just "fit in". They have no self identity so they try to identify with someone else. Unfortunately, the people that they try to be like are often negative-oriented people. Victims feel as though the mistreatment is their own fault. They also tend to feel like they have no one to confide in about their frustrations or problems so the attention from bullies beats no attention at all.
Both bullies and their victims experience significant repercussions from the bully-victim experience. The bully in some cases, maintains his abusive tendencies into adulthood. This increases his chances of becoming a multiple violator of the law (Balan,2002). Prisons are supersaturated with adult bullies. Inmates bully each other about simple things like keeping the televisions on the same music video channel all day and going to the front of the lunch line rather than patiently waiting in the line. Conversely, the bully may also be humbled by either life’s experiences, some significant thing or some noteworthy individual. In plain English, some bullies meet their match at some point. Some potential victims resist bullying and actually change the lives of some bullies forever by simply challenging their actions. The bully perceives the challenge as a sign of attention, care or concern about their personal well-being. This, sometimes, is all the bully needed to change his heart or mind-set about mankind. Victims of bullying, in some cases, get overwhelmed by the negativity of it all and in the long run may become an abusive person in their adulthood as a result of lifelong retaliation against bullies. In this case, the bully monster will have successfully perpetuated itself. On the other hand, many persons who suffered the pains of bully victimization in their younger years become stronger persons as a result, It is said even in the Holy Bible in the book of Romans that suffering produces perseverance, character and hope. As the old adage goes, "What don’t kill you, will make you stronger". Those individuals who are strong believers in God know that those that fight through the battle and endure until the end will enjoy the victory. When a victim stands up to his bully boldly, yet peacefully, he is diligently mitigating the hostility and strengthening the intestinal fortitude of all parties involved. These trials and tribulations further prepare a person for the almost inevitable series of crucibles and obstacles of life. Life is one of the most inequitable matters in existence, well beyond bullying.
Bullying is one of this worlds most underestimated perils or vices. Bullying is very destructive to a person’s character or sense of self-worth. It, just like many other vices, breeds or effectuates serious or detrimental realities and harsh consequences. Therefore, when authorities and parents ignore or neglect their responsibilities to confront and extinguish bullying at its early stages, we, sometimes, witness or hear of extremely violent, but avoidable, acts committed by those who had been subjected years of relentless abuse of some kind (Axeelrod,2001). Per a transcript of CBS’s Eye On America "hosted by renown news reporter Dan Rather that I obtained from the Troy State Electronic Library, some parents are beginning to formally contest how authorities are not responsive enough to their children’s pleading for assistance. Mr. Rather interviewed Mary Rose Darrup, whose daughter Jill had cried to her principal, Mary John, at Mount Carmel High School in Pennsylvania for help with a group of school bullies. The principal says that they assigned a full-time guard to Jill. However, the Darrups said that the school still hadn’t done enough to change the behavior of the bullies. One of the bullies was Sasha Savage, daughter of a powerful judge and niece of the school disciplinarian. Sasha hit Jill with a bottle between the eyes. The Darrups were not satisfied with the school board’s poor response so they took the matter to the state court. The court’s disposition was that the state was not responsible. Mrs. Darrups was quoted saying, " In my opinion, this is how Columbine started." Jill Darrups decided to leave her school to solve her problem. However, too many times victims of bullying choose a less peaceful method of resolution.
There have been many noted incidents across the country where victims have retaliated against the extensive abuse and bullying perpetrated upon them. A few noteworthy incidents are as follows: the catastrophic massacre of teachers and students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado; two adolescent snipers (eleven and twelve years old)murdered persons at a middle school in Peducah, Kentucky; the middle school male student who shot and killed his teacher because he was suspended from school; the Nevada teenager who attacked his bus driver with a Samurai sword; or the high school student who shot and killed seven teachers and students in East Germany because he had been suspended from school a couple days earlier. Those children, more than likely, had been mistreated or bullied by their parents, siblings or fellow classmates but never received assistance or attention from anyone in a timely manner. As much as most parents do not like to acknowledge it, much of the bully behavior of the world is learned in our family homes. It is this exact denial of the truth that creates and then perpetuates the negative ramifications of bullying.
The best way to control and diminish the impact of bullying on our society is to develop a system to do such. It will certainly take a concerted effort from the school administrators, students, parents and the community(Short-Camilli,1999). School officials have made efforts to enhance school safety by implementing statutes and regulations devised by government agencies and community factions collectively. There is currently a nationwide movement to bully-proof schools and community. The focus of the movement is to create a safer environment for all by developing a culture within the school that does not tolerate physical or emotional acts of hostility. Accordingly, students need to believe that staff will intervene. The caring majority of students must set the tone of tranquility at the school. Bullies need to be taught how to utilize this positive strengths for leadership. Victims need to feel supported and protected in order that they can relax and excel in the classroom. Whether the school or the community, we acknowledge that it really does take "A whole village to raise a child". It is imperative that parents, students and educators adopt this African proverb as their way of living if schools and communities are to improve.
My personal sentiments on bullying are focused towards the failure of parents of both bullies and victims to nurture and teach their children self- love and respect for mankind. I feel that if partners were more accountable of the example that they set before their children, the youth of our society would be more compassionate and self-confident thereby providing fewer bullies or victims in this world.
Per third grade school teacher, Ms. Nicole Williams, bullying starts in the very early stages of a child’s life. By the time the student get to the third grade, the bullies are very easy to differentiate from the victims(Williams, 2002). She said to me, " Sir, it is ashamed that these parents expect us to instill discipline, manners, self-respect and communication skills into their children. After we spend 80% of the school day doing those things, then we can try to teach them Math and Science!" She too believes that if parents are not more accepting of their role in rearing their own children, the vices of our world, like bullying, will continue to plague our world.
Bullying has profound effects on our entire society. It transcends all racial and economic categories of society. The world is filled with individuals of varying mental capacities and value systems. Because these two statements are true, it is inevitable tat people will split as bullies versus victims. The severity of the repercussions fo bullying can be curbed if parents, students, and school officials collaborate and devise ways to extinguish acts of physical or emotional aggression in its initial stages, however as long as we continue to neglect our youth and their well-being or best interest, this world will continue to reap what is continually sows, bullies.
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Miller, Mattese. Unit Manager, FCI-Edgefield. Personal Interview Session, April 25, 2002.
Powell, Jillian (1999). Talking About Bullying. Texas: Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers, pp. 4,10,18,24.
Short-Camilli, Camilla (199, March 1). Bully Proofing Your School: Creating a Positive Climate. Troy State Electric Library. [ONLINE]. Available: http://www.elibrary.com/s/edumark/getdoc.cgi [2002, April 4].
Shreve, Susan (1993). Joshua T. Bates Takes Charge. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., pp.26-37.59-75.
Williams, Nicole. Teacher, Parks Elementary School.