We all know that bullying is bad. We also know that in all cases of bullying there’s a bully and a victim. But there’s ACTUALLY another party involved that is often left out of the spotlight, and they are: bystanders.
Anyone who is a witness to a bullying IS a bystander. They are not the ones initiating, or the one on the receiving end. BUT! Bystanders are can still make very important differences! In two ways: one, they can either stop the bully, OR, two, make it worse by cheering for the bully.
In my high school days, I recall seeing someone being beaten up at recess in the canteen.
We did nothing.
All of us just stood there, watching the poor guy surrounded by others slapping his face. Some were too afraid of the bullies, others were laughing at the victim.
We walked back to our classrooms after recess and in class, we talked about what just happened. One of us sympathized with the victim, and another of my friends replied:
“I think it’s a good thing actually, they let him grow up, ready him for society…they are toughening him up. Readying him for society.”
At that moment, I felt very uncomfortable at what he said, because it seemed like we are trying to justify bullying! Bullying is so normal to the point that it was to be expected in high schools. Everytime it happens, we commit dissonance reduction by telling ourselves that it’s okay, because nothing can be done, so bullying is ACTUALLY good for the victim.
But that one day might come, where we just pause to reflect and realize that we could actually help them and stand up for them.
In my opinion, this “silent approval” is as harmful as being active bullies. By justifying bullying as “harmless fun”, or as a form of “training” for the victims, we create an environment that allows bullying, even making it seem like a cool or good thing to do.
Years later, I became an adult, yet I still don’t see the benefits of bullying, and how it can “train” us. Bullying is still happening around us. If bullying is to help us be ready for society, why is it still here when we are already in the society? In workplaces there are abusive bosses or toxic colleagues, there is backstabbing, gossip, sexual harassment. Yet, the same people who stood aside and witness bullying still say that it’s all part of the journey to succeed.
There is a culture of bullying. In some universities and workplaces, seniors will humiliate or abuse juniors as a form of welcome, and proceed to justify to their juniors that they are preparing them for future abusive people in life. When the juniors become seniors, they will also treat THEIR juniors the same. I think that is the saddest part: we treat this as a tradition. This is the sad part, we didn’t question it, we just follow because this is a tradition. Just like covering something rotten with a layer of sugar.
Bullying is NOT a necessary evil. It’s just bullying. There’s no need to sugarcoat it. Before we think of stopping it, we must stop justifying it. DON’T allow people to EXCUSE their behavior. At the end of the day, being neutral is just hiding from the fact that you could have done something different when someone is being harmed.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
With you, MY Psychology.
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