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The culture of bullying

By Debbie Ogunjobi

Adulthood is supposed to be the period in our lives when we take full responsibility for our actions, our responses to other people’s actions and general well being. It’s that period of our lives when we determine who and what we are on our own terms.  The choice of determining how we are treated is not ours as children but emancipation should ideally come at the onset of adulthood.

I remember really being excited by the prospect of adulthood as a child; I wanted my own money, I wanted to eat what I felt like, go where I chose and I most especially wanted to choose the company I kept. I had a thing about keeping an area sacred so I could fully inhabit my special space and that really was one of the greatest dividends of adulthood. All of my desires were directly linked to breaking the culture of bullying and achieving the peace and harmony that would make life beautiful as I believe it should be.

A lot of attention is being paid to the growing culture of bullying in schools and of late I have been pondering the nature of the phenomenon. We all agree that the nature of man is that the weaker can be the prey of the stronger and while that is the case most times, it is high time we take note of the end product of bullying. What becomes of the bully and the bullied? Does graduation suddenly put an end to the aggressive nature of the bully or the victim nature of the bullied? I know from personal experience that it took a process of spiritual, financial, social and physical growth to confront those demons of aggression and victimisation to make me the well rounded adult I hope I now am.

Whether we all like it or not, we are all bullies and victims at some point or the other. Anytime you take advantage of someone by a  threat whether implied or stated you are a bully and anytime you succumb to a threat you are a victim, so it is a virus that plagues us at some point or the other.

The bully actually never changes and simply metamorphoses into a creature that is slightly more refined than the little monster dreaded by other children in school. I say this as I had time to observe a full grown bully in action lately. I heard words spoken to hurt, intimidate and terrify a wife by a husband who undoubtedly must have been one of those little terrors in the past.

I also observed a perfect bully victim in action as the wife in question just shrank as all victims did and put up very little defence and my heart shrivelled as I saw a different side of an individual I had hitherto held in high esteem.  While trying to do some damage control, the wife let out some of the pain she had bottled up inside and I heard the story of a life spent as a victim who also became a bully when the opportunity permitted. It had all begun with a step mother from hell who felt threatened by a little girl and as such made life a living hell, in turn the little girl let out the pent up rage by being a bully to other children in school. It progressed with the acquisition of a husband who replaced the physical abuse of childhood with emotional abuse and children who seem bent on continuing the tradition!!

A lot of us actually don’t fully become adults as we seem rooted in the same patterns that have been the norm for us since childhood. I am of the very strong opinion that an adult has every right to stand up for his or herself and demand some consideration and respect. I also hold the belief that adulthood has courtesy and consideration for others as a requirement; so we must help bullies grow up by standing up to them and speaking up for ourselves, not by employing aggression as a tool but by insisting that respect and consideration be the only way we will accept to be treated!!  Saying No is an active part of growing up; no to unkindness, inconsideration, emotional blackmail and abuse and having zero tolerance for physical abuse! The sad part is that the bully is no happier than the bullied; they are both emotional cripples who won’t confront the issues that cause them to lash out and even submit themselves to abuse!

Expression and communication are not interpreted well as aggression whether it is emotional or physical.
There has to be a better way to express ourselves than through abuse and aggression. Adults abusing children in the name of discipline is a sign of weakness and while I do believe in discipline we all must draw the line when it becomes abuse.

What I found to be most amazing are the children who are taking the culture of bullying to the next level by bullying their parents!!! I am all for the rights of children but what happened to the rights of the adults and the age old tradition of respect for elders? Bullying has given birth to cultism, aggression in our homes, violent crime in our societies, violence amongst communities, aggression between individuals, wars between countries and the list goes on and on.

It began as a little ant in the playrooms, to a dog in the schools, a monster in the society and an asteroid that is capable of destroying the universe. It’s a culture that needs to be uprooted before it consumes us all and it begins with each and every one of us.


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