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My Thoughts

What Bullying Epidemic?

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few months ago I wrote briefly about the so called bullying epidemic. I wanted to expand on that somewhat by shifting the metaphor from epidemic to flu. I don’t know whether bullying really qualifies as an epidemic. The Wikipedia page for the word epidemic defines an epidemic as follows:

In epidemiology, an epidemic (from επί (epi), meaning “upon or above” and δήμος (demos), meaning “people”) occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience. Epidemiologists often consider the term outbreak to be synonymous to epidemic, but the general public typically perceives outbreaks to be more local and less serious than epidemics.

Of course one must allow for a bit of facileness in juxtaposing a social and biological epidemic, but consider a special case of epidemic – a pandemic; defined on Wikipedia as:

pandemic (from Greek πᾶν pan “all” + δῆμος demos “people”) is an epidemic of infectious disease that has spread through human populations across a large region; for instance multiple continents, or even worldwide. A widespread endemic disease that is stable in terms of how many people are getting sick from it is not a pandemic. Further, flu pandemics generally exclude recurrences of seasonal flu.

English: this is my own version of what bullyi...

English: this is my own version of what bullying looks like (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So bullying is not a pandemic or epidemic. But to stretch this epidemiological metaphor to its limit lets equate the bullying epidemic with a seasonal flu that may be more virulent some seasons than others. Not an H1N1 or other super-bug/virus.

In my earlier post about bullying I scratched the surface of an idea: that media coverage of a topic can increase the likelihood that a meme promoting violent behavior could evolve to become pandemic in scope. This violent meme could contain the seeds of both bullying and revenge. A telltale sign of a violent idea is apathy towards and disregard or denial of the humanity of others; outsiders and those who are different. I’m concerned that bullies will become dehumanized. What will happen when a bully commits suicide? How much can we admonish bullies before we begin tolerating – or even encouraging – revenge?

English: the picture consist of articles on bu...

English: the picture consist of articles on bullying, I obtained it from public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not predicting witch hunts of bullies and such, but I don’t think that we as a country can do much about bullying except continuing advancing towards the Left socially; more accepting of ‘otherness’. That will take time. I’m glad that there is an anti-bullying campaign, but we should keep in mind that we’re not dealing with an exploding epidemic. Bullying existed on Earth before humans did.

Bullying is natural behavior. So is standing up to bullies. Fight the problem but don’t dehumanize the aggressors. Bullies are people too after all. And what do we call people who dehumanize others?

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