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A form of abuse that comprises repeated acts over time that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power.

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A Closer Look at Bullying

  • Jan 5, 2012
Note: I first wrote this on the heels of Jamey Rodemeyer's suicide in September.

Here's the big problem with bullying: Most of the folks upstairs are eager to keep pretending it's the 1950′s. The standard advice on how to deal with being bullied runs mainly along the lines of going with it and allowing your tormentors to subject you to whatever abuse they have in store today. I told my babysitter on numerous occasions about the shit I had to take. Typical of the reactions: "Just ignore them, and they'll stop making fun of you when they see that it doesn't affect you!" "Talk to them about it, they'll respect that and stop!"

Clearly the advice of someone who was decades removed from not only formal public schooling, but reality. Unfortunately, it also carries a certain form of shortsighted haughtiness one usually feels from Richard Dawkins giving you his step-by-step philosophical analysis for atheism before exclaiming "well, that about wraps it up for god." That is to say, they're so convinced they're right and that this is how the laws of the universe work that they pretend that any afterthoughts you use against them were never even said.

A few days ago, a 14-year-old by the name of Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide on September 18. He had become, for lack of a better term, a kind of petty hero to many area kids and teenagers for his Youtube videos about the importance of acceptance. His uploaded videos on Youtube to assure people in his situation that it gets better and that they're not alone. Long story short, it didn't get better for poor Jamey. His final video was a goodbye message. They're showing it all over the news, but I can't seem to find the complete video on Youtube. If they took it down, can you really blame them?

Maybe the cuteness and precociousness of the very term "bullying" can be blamed for the way it gets treated. "Bullying" sounds like a petty initiation ritual young boys would instigate onto new inductees for their Private No Girls Treehouse Fort. That seems to be the definition authorities have latched onto, and so they all have adopted the mindset that a good talking-to and a 30-minute tolerance seminar are answers. But let's de-kidify the idea and peer at what lurks beneath the surface of bullying. Good old Wikipedia defines bullying as a form of aggressive behavior which may manifest in abusive treatment, the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when habitual and involving an imbalance of power. It may involve verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed persistently towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. The imbalance of power may be social power and/or physical power.

Let's see here… Assault? Abusive? Harassment? Coercion? On grounds that are completely arbitrary? In the grownup world, there's a term we use for people who perform such acts: Criminals. To be precise, these things are felonies, which if you need reminding are VERY SERIOUS crimes. And the arbitrary grounds which are frequently cause for bullying make the above crimes into hate crimes, which in the grownup world get considerable extra punishment tacked onto already serious punishments.

There you have it: Bullies are basically felons. They attack and subjugate people based on arbitrary differences like sexuality (Jamey was bisexual) or… Physical deformities. Like my right arm.

I see a lot of myself in Jamey. Both of us were relentlessly abused by other kids being paper-pushed through the same public school system (well, technically not the same – Jamey lived in Amherst, a suburb of Buffalo, and I lived right in the city itself) and endured a horrid torrent of abuse. Jamey probably heard the word "faggot" a lot. For me, it was "retard." We both probably resented being woken up in the early morning from escapist slumbers, the only real peace we both knew. I remember my parents going to bat for me, my teachers ignoring my my pleas to such an extent that I gave up, and stretching any sicknesses I contracted for as long as I could. While Jamey and me both had good, caring parents, Jamey had a support network of good friends who happened to be women. One of the reasons Jamey was such a target is supposedly because of his lack of male friends. I would have accepted a support network like that; I had no one. For the worst years of my life, my closest companion was Sonic the Hedgehog. I sought video games for the few times I could escape.

Trying to say bullying is a resolvable problem by asking the bullies to stop beating you up is not only useless, it ignores the psychological scars which stunt kids like Jamey well into adulthood. My first step on the outside of Follow Through Magnet School in Buffalo after receiving my junior high diploma still reigns as one of the sweetest moments of my entire life because I knew I would never have to go back there and endure all manner of vile rumors, vicious insults, and assaults, some of which came from people who tried to act like they were friends. But my experience was destructive and while high school was a lot smoother, I still wasn't able to make a lot of far-reaching friendships. According to my family, I developed an unwillingness to give people any information about myself, and I periodically lashed out at people who were trying to be nice. Or as my sister put it, I talked like I was angry. It wasn't until college that I started trying to reach out to people, and I took lessons in acting and a class in public speaking which probably helped a little. I started watching baseball, which allowed me a conversation centerpiece in my baseball-crazed college. But it wasn't until my move to Chicago that people began to really accept me on my own terms.

It's sad that Jamey won't have the opportunity to tell people a similar story to that when he reaches 30. One of our other similarities, apparently, is that Jamey and me have both given serious thought to ending our lives at our own hands. I could have easily done it; lord knows Clarence wasn't going to drop in to save me because my presence wasn't making a difference, except to the masochists I saw in school every day. I retreated into a lot of wild, Schwarzenegger-influenced graphic revenge fantasies in junior high. Let's just say it's probably a good thing my folks were never gun owners. My fantasies revolved around being the original Columbine killer, so not only would I have killed myself, I would have taken my worst tormentors down with me.

The question is now being presented: Were the people making Jamey Rodemeyer's life a living hell bullies? No, they weren't. It's time we ditched the concept of bulling and replace it with a handful which already exist: Abuse, assault, hatred. Little kids or thinking adults, it all needs to be stomped out of existence.

Jamey Rodemeyer told people that it gets better. If I could have met him, I would have said that very same thing to him.

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January 13, 2012
Strange that you wrote this, I'm working on a piece on cyber bullying. Nothing is worse in this life than hate crimes and ignorance, nothing. I have seen a lot in my time, we all get teased for the most ridiculous things- you're either too fat or too skinny, too smart or too dumb. It's like the evil Goldilocks of nightmares, it's a nightmare because the source of the bullying is purely subjective.

The ignorant ass just picks whatever will help take the attention off themselves- if everyone's laughing at that other kid, they're not laughing at him/her or they can't see how miserable their lives are. Yes, it's a defense mechanism but, it's still a hate crime.

The fact that some authority figures in schools don't take it seriously is ridiculous. How many kids have to die before there is a solid punishment that will damage someone's school record?

I want to thank you so much for sharing your story and I'm so happy that you made it out of that hell to be with us here today. I would love to tell everyone in that situation, and I think we've all been there, that not only does it get better but, that everyone has something to give to this world. It is my hope that the more we speak out against this criminal behavior, the more influence it will have.

My niece is 11 and we've raised her to always befriend anyone that she sees being bullied. She knows if Auntie Sam ever heard of her being a bully, she would be in the biggest trouble of her life. That, arguably, could be construed as bullying but, it's more of a fact and a consequence. We have to stay strong with our kids and raise them to be compassionate beings, if we don't, who will? By we, I mean all of us, it takes a village to raise a child, after all.
January 08, 2012
I was a little hesitant to mark this write up as 'fun to read' since the details you shared was just....hard to say, heart breaking? What a sincere and honest piece!
January 08, 2012
Yeah. They had the Police investigate any wrongdoing which may have been involved in this kid's suicide. They couldn't do anything, since no laws were actually broken. But considering what he went through, it really doesn't seem right.
January 06, 2012
Frank led me to this review Baron and you brought tears to my eyes. My God what you went through - and I agree too with you about bullying being a crime of abuse and hatred. Poor Jamey; it's just so sad, especially making a last video message; it saddens and breaks my heart when I think of how desperate this poor guy felt - I feel that way when any young person commits suicide, but since you told more of his "story" it's even sadder. I also agree with you that ignoring a bully and thinking they will just give up is not the answer at all and it doesn't work. Like I told Frank with his review, I got bullied and I handled it in 2 different ways and that worked for me, but after reading your review and re-reading Frank's, I'm seeing things a little differently as far as the extent of the abuse and what needs to be done by the abuse victim in order to try and survive. I've also seen many stories on the news about Jr. and High School victims completely losing their minds and instead of committing suicide, they turn on the school by blasting their way in and going on shooting sprees. This is sad; yeah, he did a terrible thing by killing on a spree, but at the same time, when the mind snaps it makes sense they would resort to this. Thanks to both you guys for your opinions and for bringing this subject out and sharing your terrible experiences -- respectfully -- Brenda
January 07, 2012
Thank you. Like I said, I had the fantasies.
More Bullying reviews
Quick Tip by . October 11, 2010
Bullying is a huge problem in most schools. Adults tend to dismiss it, saying all kids get teased, but bullying goes way beyond teasing, and when it's chronic, it's lethal.
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Bullying is a form of abuse. It comprises repeated acts over time that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power with the more powerful individual or group abusing those who are less powerful. The power imbalance may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a target.

Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as psychological manipulation. Bullying can be defined in many different ways. Although the UK currently has no legal definition of bullying, some US states have laws against it.

Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse. Robert W. Fuller has analyzed bullying in the context of rankism.

Bullying can occur in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, the workplace, home and neighborhoods. It is even a common push factor in migration. Bullying can exist between social groups, social classes and even between countries (see Jingoism).
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