Friday, January 16, 2015

Bully for You

Watching The Imitation Game on Sunday, one scene stood out for me. No, not solving the Enigma code, not the immense size of the machine, not even the jitters Turing suffered as a result of the chemical castration punishment.

It was the scene where a young, maybe teenaged, Turing is buried under floorboards by his classmates. He's essentially in a coffin. His predators NAIL him in there and proceed to stamp or jump on the floorboards. He fights for a little while, banging on the boards, but then he overcomes his fear. He lies still and stops giving them the power.

Alan Turing: "Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes... hollow."

I can still recall how the cicada cycle of 1987 affected me. A younger kid chased me around the playground holding a cicada. It was horrible. But I played into his hands and everybody laughed.

Not that we shouldn't stop our attempts to end bullying, but we, and I speak as a parent of a tween girl, need to encourage kids how to react.

Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" encourages that attitude of not caring - not giving into others' desire to feel better about themselves by taking someone down a notch. My daughter initially thought this song was about calling attention to your backside, but I told her that I love this song, because it's really about turning the other cheek (Sorry, I can't resist!!).

But the song I really love by Ms. Swift is "Blank Space." Because she acknowledges that her dating life has been pretty public, her ex-boyfriends think she's crazy and she's a risk. Obviously, being a famous singer, she is going to be subject to gossip and pointed fingers. But laughing at herself makes her more in control of the narrative. (Full disclosure: I love Taylor's Scottish Fold kitties and that she carries them around NYC with her. I'd do it with Disney if I could.) Choosing to own your foibles can disarm your detractors as well as make it boring for them to target you - the "hollowness" of Turing's statement.

Bullying is not just a kid problem. I've worked for several bullies. Other parents, especially moms, can bully each other - "You haven't signed up little Billy for walking lessons? He's going to be behind the other one year olds in his class. But I guess that's your prerogative." I'm sure I'm guilty of bullying - my husband might call it manipulating, but it is a form of bullying. There are several people I know that I'd consider bullies, but they are in a position of power that tacitly approves it.

As in the case of the free-range parents discussed on Facebook yesterday, we as parents need to provide our children with tools for life. Teaching them how to cross the street safely is as important as dealing with adversity in its many forms. There will always be dominant personalities that assert power over others, whether in the workplace or in religious matters. It might not be physical but emotional and psychological bullying are everpresent.

No comments: