By Tracy O'Brien | Posted: Monday May 14, 2018
Kia ora Koutou, Greetings
This week is Bullying Awareness Week in New Zealand schools and workplaces.
The statistics make sobering reading as New Zealand is ranked second out of 51 countries for bullying-related incidents in schools and 1 in 5 people report workplace bullying. International comparisons are often difficult to gauge but whichever way you slice it we are not in great shape. Throw in specific issues such as sexual harassment which has also exploded here, and internationally, and we can see we have a huge societal issue. How we got here is the subject of many a commentary pointing to a range of causes from mental health to poverty to traditional gender attitudes to pop culture to the ills of the internet and social media. Whatever the push and pull factors we certainly have a "culture" issue.
Sociology generally defines culture as consisting of the "beliefs, behaviours, objects, and other characteristics common to the members of a particular group or society. Through culture, people and groups define themselves, conform to society's shared values, and contribute to society." Moreover, culture is seen as contagious and something that can be generationally as well as genetically transmitted. It's bigger than big so we have to continue to challenge our beliefs and each other ensuring we speak up and out when not OK behaviours occur in any space.
The elephant in the room is our impressionable young people- especially our 5 to 12-year-olds. What example is being set for them? They take their cues from us and at times adults set the worst possible example. They (kids) see the hypocrisy of the "do as I say not as I do" culture that often dominates. Throw in fictional or reality TV and movie culture that makes sport of people and encourages judgment, mockery, and derision of others and you can see how much we are swimming against the tide.
Still, we have to keep up the fight and look for ways to build empathy and compassion in our students as well as the skills to discern for themselves what is fair and just as well as the courage to act on it.
Tomorrow is pink shirt day. Great-get into it. Ongoing bullying awareness is crucial. For a simple theology, Lukes gospel points the way, though we (humanity), are yet to crack it. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you (Lk Ch 6 v.31): End of story!