Bullying and Slavery – Linking the Chains

Cyberbullying 
Slavery is the control, exploitation and domination of person (or group) over another person (or group) for profit, gain, pleasure and control.

Sound familiar?

Slave handlers are oversized, overpaid, overblown bullies. They take want they want, use force, threats, coercion, and abuse to get it, and do not care about the people they hurt.

Facebook has seen a chain-status being posted and re-posted in the past week:
The Girl you just called fat? She has been starving herself & has lost over 30lbs. The Boy you just called stupid? He has a learning disability & studies over 4hrs a night. The Girl you just called ugly? She spends hours putting makeup on hoping people will like her. The Boy you just tripped? He is abused enough at home. There's a lot more to people than you think. Put this as your status if you're against bullying.

Parents are posting things like "Stop bullying my kid!", or "End bullying NOW!" Some messages are strong and positive. Others are reactions to what's happening in their lives and are… not-so-positive.

It is difficult to understand that many bullies are coming from a place of marginalization (even if they seem popular with many friends), homes that are abusive, past circumstances where they themselves were beaten, cyber-bullied, humiliated, and abused. Angry, hurt, and embarrassed, they lash out at others so everyone hurts just like they hurt. It's certainly not an excuse to continue the violence, but it is something to considered carefully.

Our reactions, too, also send a message.

Parents… it is such a fine and worrisome line to teach your kids to stand up for themselves, yet do so in a way that is honouring to people — themselves and others. Some days it seems so clear-cut and others, not so much.

But becoming threatening, menacing, hateful, malicious and abusive (and it's so easy to become passively so), we turn ourselves into bullies as well. We want to hold power over the bullies and make them feel small, insignificant, and unwanted. If we give them a dose of their own medicine, we think we're doing a public service.

It's easy to post a status of FB or Twitter that you want bullying stopped. It's not so easy to choose to be compassionate towards someone who is hurting you. Sometimes our tough stances actually turn into forms of counter-bullying. Our good intentions cause pain that is not our right to inflict.

1. Parents — don't go online and start bullying the kids or kids' parents that are hurting your kids, and DON'T post private information on a public forum in under-handed ways meant for the bully, but for the world to see. You have no idea how much hurt you are causing. Once online, you can't take it back no matter how many "I'm sorrys" you say.

2. Kids — bullying sucks. It hurts. Words DO hurt (no matter what that stupid poem says). Telling trusted people about what's happening makes you courageous, not a rat. Making changes, like switching math classes, is not a sign of weakness of but smartness because you care about your life and want to be healthy. The truth is: this takes time, patience and lots of courage. There's no easy way out, as much as we'd like one.

3. Choose mediation — if you (parents or kids) feel you can't confront the bullies yourselves, set up a meeting with a calm, well established mediator who can bring all parties in together for a talk. In a neutral space where everyone has a say, without shouting or name calling, the truth is more liable to come out and bullies are more apt to see the pain they're causing when they don't have an audience to perform for.

4. Bullies — whatever is going on for you (adult or child), you are promoting yourselves as sad and unwelcome. You hurt people, but enjoy the power this affords you because your own lives are a-shambles. If this is something you can live with and you really don't care how other people suffer because you look so strong in front of the crowd, be prepared for the crowd to go away. People will stand up to you and you will end up alone. You can change that. You do not have to be the bully — whether it's because you laugh out of it, or because you are counter-bullying another bully, or because you were taught violence is the only way… doesn't matter. Choose peace. Choose the hard, but true road that will see you live and not just masquerade as a person.

5. Citizens — be aware the bullying affects slavery. Victims and bullies alike are extremely vulnerable and can fall prey to traffickers.

For example, take "Vicki". Vicki has 4 siblings, all from different fathers, and her mom doesn't know where Vicki's own father is. Vicki is expected to get the younger ones up every morning, get them ready for school, pack their lunches, and then drag mom out of bed so she remembers to go to work so they have a paycheck for rent and food. Vicki's grades are mediocre at best, no matter how hard she studies. The smart kids in the class get lots of attention. Vicki just disappears. When a smart kid laughs at her presentation in class, she suddenly becomes angry. She starts sending anonymous texts to the smart kid — "Everyone hates you!", "U suck!", "Die! Die! Die!", "I'm gunna get U!" and so on. Vicki wants out of her world. She hates herself, her mom and her life.

Enter Ms.Recruiter. She's been watching Vicki. She starts chatting her up with casual conversation… and progresses to gifts like cool clothes and cell phones… then drugs and booze. See where I'm going?

Smart kid, horrified by the texts and the e-rumours on Facebook, comes to school where kids now laugh at him for having sex with goats. Vicki is gone, but the rumours aggravate other kids who push at the smart kid who now doesn't feel so smart. His grades drop, he fights with his parents and siblings a lot more, and he begins to hate the things he loved.

Enter Mr.Recruiter. He's been watching smart kid. He starts chatting him up with casual conversation… and progresses to gifts like iPads and cell phones… then drugs and booze. See where I'm going?

Of course, these are worst-case scenarios. My point is: children in vulnerable states are easy prey for traffickers. Bullying exacerbates the vulnerability. If we don't address the vulnerability in ways that are healthy, positive and peace-making, we will only make ourselves more at risk of investing in the slave trade — we become our own worst bullies.

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