Recently I saw an ad on Cartoon Network (I was getting nostalgic) that urged people to put an end to bullying. I’ve been hearing this message a lot lately. There are numerous organizations dedicated to wiping out the terrible and socially pervasive issue that is bullying. The only problem is, it can never be stopped.
Regardless of what people think, bullying is not a new phenomenon. It is a timeless social issue that has been present since the dawn of man. There has and always will be conflict. And one instance of conflict is bullying, described richly in literary works such as “Oliver Twist” and “Lord of the Flies.” Looking back at world history, there are endless accounts of group bullying, too, whether during the Roman army’s reign, the Nazi regime, and so on.
In this age of information, we hear about everything the second it happens, from anywhere in the world. Because we learn about every suicide resulting from bullying or some other story in relation to the issue in our endless news feeds, it’s not crazy to think things are worse than ever. But the flaw in that is, before this influx of technology, we would have no way of keeping track of all this bully related activity. We never studied it as closely as we do now, so there is not sufficient evidence to support this “epidemic” of bullying being exclusive to the 21st century.
The issue also was not fully understood. What we consider bullying now was seen largely as any other violent behavior or a type of social norm that people just had to deal with. Bullying has taken on new forms, but it is not exclusive to our generation.
There are many reasons behind bullying, but the root cause and appeal revolves around power. Power is an obsession that has plagued mankind forever. It comes in many flavors and all of them are intoxicating. Bullying is like a cheap fix, a shortcut to the sweet satisfaction of having complete and utter dominance over someone in a variety of ways. This is something that will exist in humanity forever. And the flirtation with power is not something that dies with age or maturity.
There are studies that show this kind of desire is not exclusive to age or mental wellbeing. The most popular is the 1971 Stanford Prison study, which tasked mentally and morally sound undergraduate students to assume the role of guards and prisoners. The result was clear, and deeply disturbing, on how quickly the guards starting mistreating the prisoners.
Another problem with putting a definitive stop to bullying is that it is an endlessly complex issue. There are various types of bullies who can seek dominance, control or who desire something else intellectually, physically or socially. These three main ideals of bullying have numerous branches that all have their own unique angle. And, because there are so many different branches of bullying, it’s hard to create a concrete way of stopping them.
Every organization or website such as stopbullying.org or education.com that give tips about stopping bullying are more reactive than proactive, because that’s all you can do. Don’t get me wrong, this is how bullying should be treated. Try and instill parents and children with awareness of the problem and monitor it as best you can. Nobody can monitor what people do 24/7, and telling us what we can’t do doesn’t stomp out the temptation, however. Everyone, I would argue, has engaged in or been the victim of some form of bullying, however briefly.
Believe me, I would love to live in a future where I wouldn’t have to worry about little Danny Jr. getting picked on or bullied in school, but that’s not going to happen.
I think the pursuit to end bullying is a very noble cause, but destroying the inception of it from our minds is something that just can’t be done. We should try to suppress and control it as much as we can, but saying that it can be stopped is both ridiculous and misleading.