There’s been a lot of talk about bullying lately. I have very conflicted feelings about the phenomenon of bullying, especially in schools. Part of me says that no one deserves to be bullied, that’s clear. Another part of me recognizes that bullying is simply a part of life and that all of us experience it. Bullying occurs in school, between children, no question. But it also happens between teachers and kids, between principals and teachers, between parents and kids and between parents and other parents.
Bullying is an abuse of a position of power in treating another person with disrespect. With children, it often comes down to popularity or physical size. Between employers and employees, it rests on authority. The same potential exists for government to hold authority over businesses. In all aspects of our lives, we deal with unequal power relationships. Ideally, we would all treat each other with respect and bullying wouldn’t be an issue.
Now that I have kids in school, I’ve given bullying a lot more thought. At school, the kids are taught that if there’s a problem, they’re to tell a teacher. That’s fine at school, but what happens when they feel disrespected on the bus home or at the mall with friends or online? And what happens when they graduate from school and there’s no teacher to tell anymore? I suspect that our courts are overloaded because when people have problems with each other, they still resort to telling someone in a position of higher authority.
There’s really no ideal solution to bullying. Each person is different and each situation is unique, so it takes maturity and patience to deal with these difficult issues. But it makes sense to develop our own personal power so that we’re less likely to be targeted with bullying. (And then use your power for good, not evil.)
Have you ever noticed, while driving, a situation where the usual rules of right-of-way don’t seem to apply, where the most expensive car will proceed first? I’ve seen examples of the largest vehicle advancing and other cars yielding. That makes sense for a stance of self-preservation. But I’ve also seen, at a four-way stop where three vehicles arrive simultaneously, a BMW sedan proceed ahead of a pickup truck. It seems as though the driver of the BMW feels that his display of wealth affords him or her some preference.
But there’s more to it than that. I have enough money to not need to work. When I return to work (for a project or for seasonal work), if I feel disrespected, I have the choice to address it or to leave, without having to worry about how it will affect my livelihood. And I’m more likely to address the issue because I have nothing to lose. Even in situations other than work, I feel that I have a certain confidence because if I can accumulate wealth, I’m a worthwhile person.
There’s more to personal power than just wealth. Ideally, everyone would have a healthy self-image and value their potential to contribute to their community. But having wealth might jumpstart the process. At least, it can’t hurt.