So, the charity for which Aubrey O’Day is playing on Celebrity Apprentice deals with the tireless fight against bullying. And I think this is unfortunate, because every time I see her on the screen I want to punch her in the face.
It’s probably not an accident, though. Because every time I encounter the word “bully ” lately I want to punch something.
Mini was lecturing me a while back about “speaking up” if you see a boo-lee, or if somebody is boo-lee-ing you. Having seen one of Nickelodeon’s bullying PSAs, he considered himself a resident expert on the scourge of bullying in late capitalist America and, truth be told, he probably does have about the same understanding of the whole issue as most people who consider themselves experts. I told him that “speaking up” is all fine and good (though, frankly, I’m more of the school that advocates socking bullies in the face but I’m not convinced this is the best strategy to teach my kids), but how was he going to know if he had seen a boo-lee? How would he know when to “speak up”? And who, precisely, did he plan on “speaking up” to?
Because the thing with bullies is that everybody has a different idea about who they are and how best to deal with them. Using the “B” word has become the Godwin’s Law of 2012. Or perhaps the “mean girl” of 2012. Suddenly everybody is a bully or has a bully they are dealing with, or was bullied as a child, or is currently getting over the sting of having been bullied. I’m kind of wondering if the problem is that we have so many bullies, or if the ones we do have are just terribly busy.
Make no mistake: I’m certain that bullying happens. Like for instance, once I dealt with somebody whom I felt was “a person who deliberately intimidates or persecutes those who are weaker” (OED). “Dealt with” is probably not the right way to say it — I provoked this person. I wouldn’t say I deliberately provoked this person, but I did say things that I knew this person would not like, and I did so because I thought this person was acting like a colossal jackass, but nobody seemed to be policing it. I didn’t really want to be the person to say it, but since nobody else did, I went ahead and did it.
Now, it turns out this person wielded some power. From my perspective, this person might have been called a bully because in a certain sphere, the person possessed a great deal more power than myself, and this person was not exactly known for wielding that power responsibly. The power was what kept people silent about the person in question’s notorious jackassery, and not only that, it inspired people to make dramatic, public proclamations of support for the notorious jackassery. In these public proclamations, it was often me who was called the bully , and since I wield zero power in said sphere, I have to assume that the discrepancy in power referred to a discrepancy in the intellectual capabilities of the two of us.
So you can see, who is the bully and who is the bullied is really just a matter of where you’re sitting sometimes.
Bullying absolutely does happen, and it absolutely is something that should be eliminated, particularly when children are involved. But making dumbass PSAs is not going to do it. Critical thinking might have a shot, but it’s not going to work unless the adults in the world start seeing real bullying for what it is and talking about it openly. And since it’s hard to talk about a real bully without getting SLAPP’d in the face, I’m not sure this is going to happen anytime soon.
So for now, I’ve gone with the easiest definition for Mini: a bully is a bigger kid who is hitting, shoving, or otherwise physically intimidating somebody who is smaller than him or her. I told him to never be afraid to “speak up” to a teacher when he saw that — I’m pretty sure he will.