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: