Monday, September 27, 2010

Bullies


They call it bullying, but it is so much more than that. I'm talking about a current trend of social ostracizing that is at the center of the new film, "Mean Girls."

We had bullies when I was in school, back in the age of the dinosaurs according to my kids who never wanted to have their school experiences compared with mine, but it was never like it is today. We had the playground bully who pushed kids around until someone pushed back. Then they often abandoned their tactics and became more like just one of the kids.

Today, though, there is a real sense of meanness about the bullies that I don't remember from my experience, or the experiences of my children.  It's no longer, "Get out of here, punk. I was here first." Now it's ugly, venomous personal attacks that are relentless in person and online. Now it is malicious attacks that are filmed and aired on YouTube.

What is happening with young people today is just a reflection of the meanness that seems to permeate the very air we breathe. We see it in politics. Oh, how we see it in politics. We see it in business, in sports, in social events and entertainment.

Is it any wonder that kids think it is okay to act the way they do?

In a recent commentary in Parade Magazine, Harlan Coben wrote about the cliques and social posturing in high school. He wrote, "Competition is a part of life. But I wish that we hadn't wasted so much time and energy worrying and belittling and keeping score."

What Coben was referring to was mild compared to what is in the movie, Mean Girls, but he offered a thought that applies in both cases. "No one has to fail so that I can succeed.  In fact, maybe it is just the opposite. Maybe we are all on the same boat, and maybe we rise and sink as one."

What has your experience been with bullies and/or cliques? What was your response?


5 comments:

AlexOngNYC said...

I think since the Clinton Era when the economy boomed and everything got bigger and better, and parents wanted to make their children "safer" and well appointed, for the most part, values correlated to the value of your clothes and belongings got bigger. Kids are overexposed to everything and just spoon fed to the nth degree, so all they want to do is belong. And for those who don't want to belong or belong to something different, instead of understanding each other, they attack.

Alex

Maryann Miller said...

Good points, Alex. But I'm not sure if that started in the Clinton era or before. When I first got the idea for my book Friends Forever, it was because my daughter, who is now in her forties, was dealing with those social issues in school. And kids were ugly to her because she did not have the latest fashions and we lived on the wrong side of town. Some things don't change, they just get more intense.

AlexOngNYC said...

I know, at least in the media, or movies in the 80s, that clique wars were starting, they just seemed more intensified as parents thought more and more it would be a good idea to raise "play date" and over stimulated children. I always associate the Clinton Era with the rise of the SUV and the internet as a weapon. So I tend to just dump everything into that box.

Alex

Helen Ginger said...

Even in the dark ages, when I was in high school, there were cliques. But they were not the cliques of today. You are right, today's cliques are mean, hateful, and dangerous. Schools and parents need to step in and stop it. And kids need to talk to their parents.

Nick Thomas said...

A good sock on the jaw, then run like the devil. Worked for me!