Undesirable #1: Bullying

What is “normal”? What does it mean to be “different”? After all, no two of us are the same… right?

Bullying is, fundamentally, a fear-based behavioral response to real or perceived differences between individuals or among groups. Smart, stupid, silly, serious, short, tall, mature, childlike, male, female, dark, pale, blonde, brunette, blind, deaf, rich, poor, jock, nerd, different learner, disabled, homeschooled, public schooled, new kid, held back, teacher’s pet… the list goes on. There are a near-infinite number of ways to be different from what is perceived to be “normal.” Further, what is considered normal in one place can be wildly unusual in another. It is all dependent on what social structure and cultural values are present.

Conforming often provides a sense of safety in groups, and those perceived as ‘other’ may seem threatening in some
way. From an evolutionary perspective, this behavior makes sense. An individual who fails to conform to expectations may risk the health and safety of the community. Excluding these individuals is meant to protect everyone else. Bullying may also be a way to establish dominance, helping to determine resource allocation and social structure.

In modern human society, however, we have thousands of years of history to teach us the value of compassion and inclusion, and the technology and resources to keep us safe from most threats. We also have morals, laws, and an understanding of the damage bullying does – not just to the victim, but to everyone in the community. There is enough food for everyone if we work to distribute it equitably, and our social structure places the emphasis on work ethic rather than physical strength. For us, bullying serves no useful purpose.

By permitting bullying at any age, level, or grouping within society, we are taking a step back in our development, not forward. Our focus on strength over skill, looks over abilities, quantity of resource accumulation over quality of contribution, and conformity over creativity is a disservice especially to the young people moving out into a workforce which values collaboration and unusual ideas. Instead of picking on those who think outside the box, let us appreciate their contributions. Rather than glorifying exclusive group identities let’s recognize every individual’s value to society. We must all support each other.

As an African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

This blog post is part of GHF’s August Blog Hop! Find similar posts by clicking on the image or the link below:



About EcoScienceGirl

Professionally, I am the Program Director for GHF Online, and a science instructor for the same. I also run a private tutoring business, Exceeds Expectations Learning. I received my Master's of Environmental Studies from Evergreen in 2016, after receiving my B.Sc. from Southern Oregon University in Environmental Studies & Biology. Eventually I would like to go back to school for either a PhD or JD, and focus my career on climate justice. Personally, I am a young adult who is fascinated with the environment, loves to read and write, and adores all animals (especially cats). In general, I do a lot of climate change activism, and I'm passionate about social and environmental justice. If possible, I would also like to save the world from humanity.
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8 Responses to Undesirable #1: Bullying

  1. byamtich says:

    I appreciate this post, especially the description of how some of the sociology and evolutionary mechanisms of the origins of bullying. And, you place inclusion and compassion on our evolutionary timeline in a compelling fashion. When you write “Bullying is, fundamentally, a fear-based behavioral response to real or perceived differences between individuals or among groups”, I can totally see how this happens, but I wonder if sometimes there is an earlier stage, before this escalation, where there is innocent bafflement at others’ difference. Bafflement doesn’t excuse behavior, but if we catch it early enough and respond in a strengths-based way, then we can skip the bullying step altogether.


  2. Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies says:

    Oh my gosh, I love the quote at the end. I will be saving it. Thanks for this!


  3. Paula Prober says:

    Love the proverb, Madeline, and your articulate, thoughtful approach to the topic.


  4. Yes, let’s appreciate contributions — and be kind. Always. Great post, Madeline.


  5. Excellent explanation on the culture of bullying that our society so readily accepts.


  6. poprice says:

    Wonderful post. Would love to hear your thoughts on “shaming,” too, from an evolutionary prospective, Madeline, especially in the age of social media. (Brene Brown has written about it in a very Oprah-esque way, but I’d love your perspective as a scientist–and millenial.)


  7. Amy says:

    “Rather than glorifying exclusive group identities let’s recognize every individual’s value to society. We must all support each other.”

    Yes, this world needs much more tolerance of differences.


  8. I love that you took the act of bullying and brought it back to the beginning–it makes more sense that way. Presenting bullying in an evolutionary perspective to our children who have been the victim of bullying can hopefully make the bullying they experienced less personal and hurtful to them.

    The best part is the African proverb! I’m going to take it and make a dramatic 8 x 11 poster for my husband to put up in his office at work where workplace bullying is rampant.



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