I was lucky enough to catch Rosa Monckton`s documentary "Tormented Lives" last night on BBC 2. I was really struck by Rosa`s compassion and her disposition to relate to people in an accepting and non-judgemental way and I really hope that this documentary`s powerful expression changes things for people.
Of course, I have talked about why we need to bully others, both as individuals and as a society, in my blogs many times, covering the abuse of women, the elderly and children. We saw in the program how bullies, very much in their raw, animal state, victimise those who are obviously weak. I have explored previously why certain people, or groups, are picked on, by whom and for what motive. I am not going to go over that ground here because this blog takes a slightly different angle in regard to my previous blogs entitled "Why Improve Ourselves?"
Though I understand bullying and victimisation from both first-hand experience and careful observation of life around me, I am always shocked to see the affects of it. Of course, bullying in schools is no better for the attention it receives and with time-old opportunities to bully the sick and the elderly, nothing changes very much. Why would it? Unfortunately, there is a societal need for it as well as the systems to enable it and systems to protect the perpetrators. We are all complicit in this.. My blogs "Teachers who Bully" show how a closed system like a classroom, for example, is a training ground for what we see in our wider society in the adult world.
Anyway, back to this blog: it struck me during Rosa`s program that our society's ubiquitous tolerance for bullying begins with small behavioural lapses that seem so ordinary and innocuous. And we let them go. Behaviour in schools is appalling.Children in mainstream education aren`t taught how to behave in a polite respectful manner and where they slide, are not pulled up for it. There is no one to care about such basics as saying please and thank you, or holding a door open for someone.Still less for a child calling another child a hurtful name. Indeed, as I discussed way back, the bullied child is more likely to be treated as a misfit, a psychological problem, than the bullies, proving that as a society we in fact SUPPORT bullying.
So what`s this got to do with the behaviour of the bullies in Rosa`s program? Simple, the behaviour of Rosa`s victimisers has slid way beyond the omission of a please and thank you.They have spent years in an environment that, frankly, allows them to vent their animal drives however they want to. Basically, it`s animal expression.
So you have to catch all aspects of behaviour early, in primary school. In my view the threshold cannot be drawn at bullying, it has to be a threshold that desires basics, as part of a process to de-animalise our behaviour from the very small issues upwards.To do this you can`t just take out certain behaviours you don`t want, 5 or 10 or 15 years too late, you have to cultivate a nature that cleaves to higher values of respect and courtesy, and a desire for approbation. What does "desire for approbation" mean? Well, it means you have to CREATE children who wish to please and wish to be helpful. But look, input has to match output, which it certainly does not in mainstream education.You just can`t get the sort of kids you want in society by telling them what to do: you have to example it! That means that classrooms should not reflect the animal nature of the outside world, survival of the fittest, children should never fall victim to group runtifictation at school, none should be left behind educationally, none should be sent to the educational psychologist when they are bullied.... I could go on. The point in the obverse is that, of course, one, just ONE example of how society operates, the classroom, demonstrates to all the children in the school that THIS is how society works. Are we then so surprised that they go out and overtly copy what is being exampled from the day that they start mixing with other kids and adults outside the family?
I think that we should always try to improve ourselves, to escape our animal nature as much as we can and Rosa`s bullies show us that. If small things were important I think that all of us could enjoy better lives, but we really have to wake up to things that are almost invisible to our rightfulness-radar.What we don`t apprehend is just off the screen, I`m afraid, causally. Rosa`s bullies have been taught, by example. The animal behaviour they exhibit carries with it the fire of resentment born out of received disrespect and projected failure that keeps them fuelled up.
If we expand this logic we can see that all behaviors are important and significant and we see that any improvement is worth it in any area or with any issue. But, but, but, we must try to see that OUR societal framework engenders the bullying we disapprove of in others. Not just that some kids are disadvantaged -by the animal function of a classroom or by the social, financial or educational status of their parents, but that our whole system is riddled with our animal needs to compete and gain position over others. If we look at what really happens in schools, the survival of the fittest at work right in front of our eyes, we can see that Rosa`s bullies learned their behaviour from everything we show them: certainly from the way schools make a percentage of children fail, the use of psychiatric labels given to various misfits,etc.
Take a look around you...
Of course, raising ourselves above our animal state, our animal soul, is one of the main themes of one of the primary texts of chassidic Judaism, the Tanya, by
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. In my discussions I am going to come back to religion in this context.