Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On-Line Bullying

Oscar Wilde, in one of his many moments of humorous wit, once said: "There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."  As much as I love Oscar Wilde, from studying his life and writings intensively I've come to the conclusion that very often he used his wit to cover up a great inner sadness.  This quotation is perhaps the best example of that.  Oscar, as I call him, had too many critics to count of both his writings and his life.  His life probably came under more close scrutiny than his writing, and more abusive comments.  The end result?  He went to jail for being a homosexual and died soon after because he simply could not handle the emotional and spiritual bombardments dropped on him.

We live in a world now overly concerned with bullying, but I think Oscar's story is worth using as a measuring stick.  As anyone who puts a piece of themselves out into the public forum should, whether it be as a politician, writer, artist, or things like web designer, someone who designs and posts flyers for the concert down the street, or creates slogans for public health, Oscar knew and grew used to the fact that he'd be attacked by critics.  Unless you want to live a private/quiet and totally unimportant life you must prepare for potential attacks on your work and your character.  It happens.  In that vein, I believe our society now concentrates too heavily on bullying--people of all ages must be taught to develop a character that contains what John F. Kennedy would label as courage.  But there is a point at which bullying and anything that falls under that name--I prefer the word attacks because it more fully grasps the only form of bullying that I think worthy of discussion--crosses a line and becomes abusive in nature.  When Oscar's critics changed tact from commenting, "You're a strange flamboyant, signed H.G. Soandso" which only encouraged him in creating his image, and instead shot out, "You're an evil homosexual who doesn't deserve to live, signed Anonymous," Oscar's sadness is then worth keeping in mind.  When comments become nefarious in nature and in no way constructive, we have a problem.

Am I in danger of falling into a deep depression like Oscar did because I seem to have picked up an anonymous commenter?  No, absolutely not.  I will continue to allow anonymous commenting regardless because, well, to some extent I think Oscar's quotation above put the tail on the donkey.  I have a personality, some of which I have purposely developed and nurtured, that has a certain amount of flair.  My humor, ego and cockiness have never gone without comment; I am used to it.  But many people are not used to it and are in danger of falling into a deep, suicidal depression, and so I simply want to take this opportunity to address the issue of bullying/attacks, particularly the on-line variety which has made its presence here on this blog.

Actually, I don't have much to say.  All I have to say is that we should give bullies/attackers a little grace.  As I talk about in my book that I'm beginning to edit and tweak this week, many of us float through life without much trust in others and, worse, without much trust of ourselves; we lack a true sense of self-worth.  What that leads to is seeking reassurance that we are loveable, respectable, and deserving of life.  Some can do this innocently and, thankfully, find that reassurance they are looking for; some, however, seek reassurance by taking the easy route: asserting power over others metaphorically or literally, so that they can either say that they are better than someone else and therefore loveable and respectable, or through force and literal displays of power squeeze out admission that they are loveable and respectable, respectively.  What lies behind the bullying/attacking shouldn't bring out disgust and punishment upon the bullyer/attacker but more compassion and love.

The only reason I make this comment at all is because, in a nutshell, my reaction to bullying/attacking, particularly noted in the last sentence of the previous paragraph, is also one of my major goals as a writer: bringing understanding, hope, and trust to the perceived evils in the world so that, in Christian terms, we can bring the Kingdom closer to our own realities.  The last thing I'd want is for something like Formspring to have a long-lasting life. (Thank you Thomas and Jen James for pointing out this website to me.  Formspring is a form of networking that unfortunately is used by many to "ask" anonymous questions that end up being very hurtful, demeaning, vulgar, and in all ways far too twisted for young people, especially women, to have to deal with)

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