Let’s all speak out to combat bullying


THE Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines bullying as “the use of strength or power to frighten or hurt weaker people”.

It is a fallacy that bullying, whether physical or verbal, is overt. It is not commonly recognised based on a single action but rather a repeated pattern of actions over an extended period.

Bullies often lack respect for others and feel the entitlement to put others down to make themselves look or feel better. Bullies often recruit “followers” to participate in their behaviour and often cause the victims to become stigmatised and isolated.

The followers perpetuate the cruel practice, sometimes not knowing right from wrong, sometimes in order to stay in power.

Bullies leave their victims scarred and traumatised, alone and desperately grappling with mental health issues that few can empathise with unless they have been in the same boat.

Bullying can happen to anyone and anywhere, including at home, school, online (cyberbullying), and in the workplace. Victims who do not see any way out sometimes resort to attempting suicide.

Only when bullying comes to light and is justly dealt with will we see bullies receive their just rewards.

There is a saying that goes: “If you want to suppress a negative behaviour, promote its psychological opposite.”

Practising and promoting kindness and respect may be the first step in putting an end to bullying. This should be the essence of moral education in school. The standards should be set high and everyone, regardless of position, socioeconomic background, age or gender should be held accountable at the same level.

Children should be taught from young that bullying is harmful and unacceptable, and be made aware of its consequences.

Developing empathy, the core element of emotional intelligence, can effectively nip bullying in the bud.

Upholding respect for gender and racial diversity, disabilities or any other disadvantages, and religious tolerance are also essential to prevent bullying. Respect removes the sense of self-entitlement and accepts that everyone has different abilities and characteristics.

There are several active ways an individual can take to make a stand against bullying:

> Be alert and recognise bullying. Take note of the behaviour of your friends, family, and co-workers and call out bullying when it is detected.

> Create a safe place for the whistle-blowers. A secure, supportive and easily accessible space should be made available to encourage people to come forward to report harassment and bullying. Whistleblowers should not be penalised but assured that their reports will be handled fairly and professionally.

> Take bullying reports seriously. Institutions and organisations should have impartial/independent mechanisms in place to study reports about bullying, conduct in-depth investigations, report their findings, and take commensurate disciplinary action.

The more people speak out to combat bullying, the more the anti-bullying culture will strengthen. As a society, we can collectively make a difference.

Our individual stance will add to the momentum that will wipe out the bullying culture, leaving kindness and respect in its place.

Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) member states have adopted the first Thursday of November as International Day against Violence and Bullying at School Including Cyberbullying, recognising that bullying in schools and cyberbullying is an infringement of children and adolescents’ rights to education and to health and well-being. World Kindness Day is observed a few days after that on Nov 13.

Don’t let these dates slip by without taking extra efforts to promote good deeds and thoughtful acts as well as celebrate kindness.

CHEE SU YIN & OON CHERN EIN

Universiti Sains Malaysia

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