Bully for You

While browsing the ol' dot I saw a link to an article in the beeb about the Rockstar game Bully in which a spokesman from Beat Bullying, a british "anti-bullying" charity was reported as saying something that I personally found both offensive and downright stupid. This prompted me to write the following letter to info@beatbullying.org:

In reading the BBC web article "'Bully' video game hits the shops" (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6089618.stm) I was struck by your spokesman Cowey's comment about how if a student used the game as a justification for attacking a bully that Rockstar would have a lot on their conscience. But this makes me think back to my own time in school. I was a "mama's boy" and consequently I was bullied quite a bit.

But the most salient point I will make is that fighting back is one of the very few things a youth can do to get out of the cycle of bullying. In a school in which the administration is making an honest attempt to prevent bullying, there may very well be other options. In fact a friend of my lady is a grammar school teacher who is involved with an anti-violence organization. But in some school environments there are no friendly faces. This is most common, I suspect, in schools with a strong commitment to athletics, and for obvious reasons.

But ultimately, the responsibility (and thus the impact to the conscience) falls solely upon the parents. Parents like to complain that in this day and age they don't have time to take better care of their children, to which I respond, "don't have any". Not because I think they don't have time; they don't choose to spend their time with their children. Putting the emphasis on providing for your child because you think they need fancy posessions and to grow up in a large home serves their wants but neglects their heart and mind - or if you will, their soul.

Bully is a game about empowerment, not about taking advantage of people or destroying their lives. As a person who was himself the victim of many bullies throughout his school career, I can say only that trying to place the blame on anyone other than the parents of the children in question is at the very least misguided. Censorship is not the answer. Investing time and effort in the most important job one can ever have - parenting - is. Blaming a game for a child's actions is patently ridiculous. It's the parent's job to raise their children, and if they cannot force their children to do what they say, perhaps they should try reasoning with them? Children are just small, inexperienced humans, after all. They are capable of thought.

Just to fill in: I was frequently harassed and abused because I was precocious in just about every area but social ability. My parents divorced when I was five years old; my father is an alcoholic who now (many years later) is in recovery, and while my mother struggled to provide for me (largely because she was too proud to utilize social services, while people who had no actual need for them were collecting from them in full) but in the process neglected her own personal life. While this selflessness seems noble, and I suppose you could look at it that way, ultimately it was destructive to both of us as it left me without any models for how a relationship between two people looked - but also, it meant both that I grew up without a father figure (I saw my father only occasionally until I was already an adult, and my mother never dated that I was aware of as a child) and thus without any model for how a man should act.

We moved early in my experience in the sixth grade and so I ended up being thrust into a middle school in the middle of a school year, with no allies and with no idea of how to act. I was repeatedly attacked and had respect for only one day; finally one kid pushed me beyond the point at which a bully knows to stop, and ended up with two black eyes and a scab on his forehead from having his head beat into the ground. I was expelled, of course. Sure, the jocks can attack me, knock me over, and steal my possessions for two years, but god forbid I should win a fight. But that's not the whole story, really; I had no idea when to stop fighting because that was my first real fight. I had been robbed of my childhood simply because my mother willingly gave up her life during it.

The moral of this weepy and whiny story is that, as I said in my letter, parenting is the most important job anyone can have. Anyone (well, almost anyone) can pass on their DNA but that's only part of what makes you who you are. DNA does not specify the position of every cell in the body and it does not specify every element of your personality. Passing on your beliefs and your ideals is just as important a part of the process as producing a living baby. Those persons who would blame the system or some other person are only attempting to deceive themselves, and are only deceiving themselves.

But at the same time, you can't give up everything to achieve that, because you will provide only an example of how not to do things. In the process of trying to raise a good child who shares your fundamental views of the world, you cannot compromise your ideals, because as primates we learn primarily by example. You can say all you want, and your child may learn to parrot your words, but it doesn't mean that they will feel the way you do about them. Only seeing the rightness of what you do and say can have that effect - or learning to believe that what you do is right. Do you want to raise children who are whole, healthy, and happy, or do you want to raise children who themselves have children and then enter into misery to support them?

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