RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The news emerging that the Rio school shooter Wellington Menezes de Oliveira blamed his killing spree on bullying was a surprise to me. Not because bullying would happen here in Brazil, it is an unfortunate universally human condition, but because a reaction would be as copious.
Being bullied is part of life, it happens on the playground, at home (certainly if you have older brothers), at the job site, in the office, everywhere. It is really sad with young children though, because kids have a primal cruelty not yet tempered by social education.
It is even more sad when children, or young adults, are not equipped to deal with it. And in extreme cases, when the mob mentality sets in on the unfortunate victim, when the school or organization responsible does not step in with some protection.
Everyone is familiar with the feeling, even most bullies have experienced both sides of the coin. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a bully as: a blustering browbeating person; one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.
The reason I am surprised to see extreme bullying be an issue in Rio is the same theory I have about the relatively low level of street fighting in large cities. It is much more common in smaller towns because there is less fear of being shot. In New York or Rio, people don’t pick fights on the street because they don’t know who is carrying a gun… just a theory, and I’m not advocating gun proliferation.
More to the point is that in the last decade is seems bullying has escalated past “kids-will-be-kids”, and society needs to wake up. There is a web site called Bullying Statistics, that did some research and lists the following statistics:
* About 77 percent of students have admitted to being the victim of one type of bullying or another.
* The American Justice Department bullying statistics show that one out of ever 4 kids will be bullied sometime throughout their adolescence.
* 46 percent of males followed by 26 percent of females have admitted to being victims in physical fights as reported in one report of bullying statistics by the Bureau of Justice School.
* About 42 percent of kids have been bullied while online with one in four being verbally attacked more than once.
My unprofessional opinion is that when bullying moves from individual abuse to the pack-mentality, that is when the school authorities should be legally responsible to step in. It is these cases where a child has no refuge, and no specific antagonist, that mass retaliations happen – like indiscriminate school shootings.
Children of course need to be taught at home and at school basic principles of civility as well, and somehow society needs to better reward kindness towards others. A protective buddy-system that does not allow for the mob to single out victims for extended periods. Of course, these are age old tragic social conditions that require vigilant attention.
Children that are bullied need to learn how to deal with it also, to vent their fear and frustration at the right place, and respond with the appropriate level of force. Again, in my unprofessional opinion, this video may help: