I was seated at a dinner for a woman's organization where each of us were assigned our seats at a table with people that we might not know or normally associate with. It was an effort to help pull the group together, to network, and a terrific opportunity.
The conversation was pleasant enough. There were a number of short speeches and a lovely meal and we began to discuss recent happenings in the group. One of the ladies expressed her opinion on one incident and appeared to have a very knowledgeable understanding of the events which she shared to back her opinion. Other chimed in their support for her view and the conversation went on.
I had little knowledge about the event so I listened, asked some questions, and basically left the conversation there.
The evening continued and the conversation took a turn. Now we were no longer discussing the event ... people's names began to come up. People who did not share the same opinion. People who had supported the person who ended up "wrong" were named. The group started to make smart remarks about the characters of these people and how their opinions were not only stupid .... everything else these people ever did, were doing, or would think of doing ... was also ridiculous. A woman at the table wanted these women pointed out to her so she could be sure to avoid having anything to do with her in the future. They plotted on how to "make the dissenters pay." They wanted the woman who had been "wrong" to also "pay" and while they laughed as they said it .... several solutions were offered that were very cruel. This group of women, getting to know one another, had bonded over a tragedy and were feeling very superior and elite as they surveyed the crowd around them.
Suddenly the information they had supplied me with earlier about the event was tainted because I realized that these women were not simply observing life and commenting on what they thought and felt .... They were stalking life, waiting for any opportunity to pounce and destroy other people. THAT was their goal. This was not their opinion. Their exercising of the right to express themselves had been turned into a razor sharp weapon intended to maime.
I am not pointing this out to say these women are horrible people. They aren't. Social interaction is often reduced to bad behaviour. It has become second nature, either because that is what we were taught, or it is what we adopted to keep our own fragile sense of well being up. It is hard to feel good about ourselves or find the courage to go out and face the world all day when we must be beautiful, and thin, and rich superwomen. When the world does not value niceties or the substance of human beings, why would we bother? Instead we chase the unattainable and fight against one another in a losing battle. Who can ever really be the most beautiful, the richest, the most famous? We run towards the images and expectations of others without ever really understanding who we are. For most women, when it becomes apparent that winning "best of show" is unlikely or impossible, the next best thing is to take out as many of the "oppostion" as possible.
What I would like you to consider is this. This group of women were considered the socially elite, the privileged, the higher intelligent, the movers and shakers of the community. There was nothing that happened during that evening that forced this behaviour. This was practice. This was habit. This was normal routine.
If we speak of others and seize on every opportunity to put others down and dismiss their work, even their lives as irrelevant with every tiny mistake or crack we observe ... then why are we surprised that our kids are bullying one another?
Kids mirror their homes.
They mirror us.
Can we recognize ourselves in their actions?
Are we listening to what those actions are saying?
It IS about us. Their actions are a symptom. The schools cannot fix this for us. The government cannot legislate this all better. We have to start taking responsibility first and foremost .... for ourselves.