Memes are an interesting phenomenon. They are able to express a quick jab of an opinion conveying more than just words. The picture adds to the sentiment being expressed, usually driving home the point in a very succinct manner. They can make us laugh or make us mad, we can high-five in agreement or disagree passionately. And then there are some which just make you furious. The above meme that has cropped up on my Facebook feed at least once a month for the last year or so is an example of one that is so fraught with misunderstanding and misinformation that it makes me see red. It’s not just for what it communicates, but because of how it reminds me of the not-so-great things I experienced as a child; things no child should have to endure.
We Americans like to think of ourselves as a proud and hardened lot, forged by personal struggles and the pulling up of our own bootstraps. This romanticized sense of rugged individualism is quite removed from today’s society. We are not farmsteaders on the frontier, this isn’t the Wild West, it’s not even the Industrial Revolution. We don’t live in a nation where you either hunt or starve. Instead, we live in a shared society, and while that may have drawbacks of its own, the good thing about it is that by and large, we reject social Darwinism, which is the idea that if you somehow can’t fend for yourself or pull on those bootstraps, then too bad, you’re not worth the air you consume, go die, and have a nice day.
Social Darwinism is exactly what that meme above endorses, it just uses nicer, more euphemistic language to couch the harshness of what it stands for. Let’s go line by line and examine it, shall we?
“We will never, ever get rid of bullying.”
Says who? And when have we really tried until recently? I don’t remember any anti-bullying campaigns going on when I was in school. I saw no effort by schools or the PTA or parents for that matter (except for the parents of bullied kids) to try and stop bullying at all. It was accepted as normal and the schools only sought to minimize serious physical harm to students and only then when the bullying took place at school. Of course, the school doesn’t want to be liable for anything, but otherwise, their plates were full and they had no time or resources to intervene and stop these things from happening. They never had any legal options, and it only got worse in the years following my graduation, as public schools faced budget cuts and services like school psychologists were consolidated or phased out. When you also consider that many bullies are also valuable assets to the school, such as athletes, well, forget about getting any real justice. The privileged class of students will always be given a pass until the schools are forced to address the issue, and usually that only happens when they commit felonies and the police get involved.
“We should teach kids how to stand up for themselves and cope.”
Yes, but to not address the bullies is giving them a pass. We should teach people how to defend themselves, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have laws against assault, robbery, rape, and murder. We should teach people how to keep their financial information secure and what to do in case they are defrauded, but that doesn’t mean we don’t go after grifters and thieves.
“INSTEAD OF wearing pink shirts and passing anti-bullying bylaws.”
Instead of? See above. Why can’t we do both? What is wrong with wearing a pink shirt to show support for kids who are chronically bullied? What’s wrong with passing anti-bullying laws or having strict policies in place at schools backed up by outside enforcement so schools cannot coddle privileged bullies? I really don’t see how anyone can be against this unless…
They think bullying is a good thing.
And some people do. They think it builds character, that it strengthens those whom it does not kill. The problem is, it does kill. It often ends in suicide, or sometimes murder. Are these lives, these kids, expendable? Are their lives worth less or worth nothing because they couldn’t cope or rise above? To some people, the answer is “yes” because they imagine that anti-bullying laws will infringe on their right… to bully people, I guess. Or they think, hey, I survived it, so it must make you stronger, and you’re bound to have casualties, right? Face, meet desk. Repeat.
“We are creating a society of victims.”
I don’t even know how to address this seriously. I know people don’t want to be victims or think of themselves that way because it means admitting that we are vulnerable to being injured or harmed by someone else but guess, er, wat? We are! When someone bullies you and intimidates you on a constant basis, sometimes for months or years, then you ARE a victim. That doesn’t mean you can’t become a survivor, but should we not be helping victims of crimes in their efforts to seek justice and recover so they can get back to their lives as best they can? Even though bullying is not a crime itself, it usually does involve the commission of crimes from harassment, threatening, unlawful imprisonment, assault, and the list goes on. Is that not enough to consider someone who endures/endured that for sustained periods of time a victim?
It’s bad enough people blame victims. I was blamed for my own bullying because I didn’t fit in as a kid. I detailed that in a note I originally wrote on my Facebook page that I have reposted here. Somehow, I was responsible for my own bullying. Yet, this meme above also shames victims by implying that if you’re a victim, there’s something wrong with your self-perception, and all you have to do is decide you’re not a victim and voila! Your problems regarding what happened disappear and you can move on with your life as if the incident(s) never happened!
What a load of pure, utter horseshit. To compare victims of chronic and severe bullying to those who pretend to be victims when they are not, to shame victims into silence or irrelevance so society doesn’t have to address the issue, and to roll over and give up because ending bullying is too big of a challenge or because some see validity in having these established pecking orders where some kids just eat shovels full of shit is lazy at best, complicit with this culture of bullying at worst. I’ll finish up with an excerpt from my post I linked above:
“When I think back on this, I realize I am still simmering over it. It’s why I routinely reject friend requests on social networks from people who either did nothing to stand up for me or who had a part in bullying me. It’s why I don’t go to school reunions. It’s why I hate going anywhere near my hometown. It’s why I am always seeking to reinvent myself and be anybody but the scared, frightened child I once was. I have scars, physical and not-physical, that are hardened and painful still to this day. And I have rage, so much rage over how fucked over my childhood was because of bullies, and nothing pisses me off more when people say “oh that was 25 years ago, get over it, let it go, everyone got teased”.
The meme above offers sanction to injustice and anyone who I see posting it can expect a wall of text telling them why they’re wrong.