Many governments are doing what they tend to do - pass knee-jerk legislation in an attempt to be seen doing something, rather than well constructed and well directed legislation. The advent of cyber-bullying has changed the nature of bullying, and a cultural shift has allowed it to fester, creating a far more dangerous situation than in previous generations.
It's not all bad news. Many schools are beginning to understand that bullying cannot be brushed off, but too many are still unresponsive to the problem. There are also some good laws that are being written, but laws can only do so much, so there are still too many bullying victims getting no help. It not as simple as passing a few laws and promoting anti-bullying programs in our schools, as good as those steps can be. What's really at issue here is our attitudes. We've created a world of too many narcissists lacking normal empathy and social skills. "Years of social and educational experiments that offer praise without accomplishment, promoting a myth of quick materialistic reward without any proven ability and valuing superficial attributes over socially beneficial attitudes has created the most self delusional generation ever. Instead of teaching kids the value of effort and benefits of empathy, thereby allowing them to develop self esteem through accomplishment and healthy social interaction as well as letting them learn from their failures, we've tried to artificially raise their self esteem with empty praise and unrealistic goals." ( HNWS Facebook post, 01/01/06 )
Once upon a time, a person was considered rude if they were so proud that they constantly bragged about their own achievements. A polite person had no problem with being proud of their accomplishments, but ideally, we didn't go around telling everyone who would listen just how great we were. There were always those that did "blow their own horn", as the old saying went, but the rest of us tried to avoid such people as tiresome braggarts.Today, such an overly proud state of mind is often the norm. How did this happen?
Somewhere along the line, we decided to help kids that were perhaps a bit less confident by artificially leveling the playing field. We decided that it was wrong to reward success, lest it make the less successful kids feel inferior. Never mind the potential motivation that such experiences might provide, ( "Hey! If he/she can do it..." ), we couldn't let poor Johnny or Jill be exposed to such harmful experiences. We began rewarding the mediocre by telling kids that everyone was just as worthy of praise, regardless of any real accomplishment. The problem was that rewarding success was getting confused with ridiculing the average. The two are not the same, but that simple fact was ignored in our rush to shield kids from life.
How ironic that, in our ill conceived attempt to shield kids from feeling like failures, we've created a lot of kids that have no empathy for exactly the kids were trying to protect.What we failed to realize is that kids brought up that way grow up to teach their own kids an even more unrealistic, self congratulatory attitude. Instead of encouraging them to try harder, do a little better and not to fear failure, we told them that they were "winners" without them having to really try at all. Everyone got a gold star. Too many parents of the first generation brought up that way have then gone on to judge thier own worth vicariously through their "successful" children. Is it any wonder then that so many kids today, after a generation of such nonsense, are growing up self absorbed and feeling entitled? Is it any wonder that empty praise leads to kids that have no empathy? Having never faced failure and its lessons, too many kids see nothing wrong with ridiculing others lower in the social pecking order. They have no real idea how it feels to be that other kid, so who cares?
The popularity and pervasiveness of this misguided philosophy inevitably led to the marketing industry taking notice, resulting in relentless pop culture reinforcement of these self absorbed attitudes. From TV to music to video games, kids today are bombarded with superficial values and a relentless message that being famous, rich or just the toughest ass-kicker around is a worthwhile, legitimate life goal, and worse, that anyone can do it. The problem, as any sensible person knows, is that this isn't true. When life refuses to reward the entitled for accomplishing nothing, and the harsh reality that they are simply average like everyone they thought was their lesser finally hits them, kids like that lash out in frustration. They are ill-prepared to deal with the reality that life isn't fair, and lack the coping skills to adapt simply because they've never had to.
If we're going to change this slippery slope into a "dog-eat-dog" world, we need to restore respect. Respect for each other, respect for real accomplishment achieved through hard work, respect for intelligence and critical thought, respect for noble and altruistic goals and last but not least, respect for what history has to teach us of our the error of our ways. Unless we do, the weaker will continue to live under the thumb of the stronger, and millions of kids will believe that fighting for themselves is more important than fighting for a higher purpose together. That world must not come to pass.