Weisz: Why we must stand up to bullies

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor:

There is a lot of talk about bullies in our culture right now. Bullying seems to be an epidemic. Mothers now sign up to be “class moms”, volunteering 15 hours a week or more just to ensure that their child does not get bullied at school. Bullying lawsuits have recently rocked Silicon Valley. Companies like Whole Foods offer their employees special assertiveness training on how to deal with “bully customers.”

Bullying has left the random “free-range” world of one’s childhood where one might have met a bully every 10 or so years. Now it is a commonplace reason why employees leave jobs, transfer colleges and outright quit “real-life” social scenes. Sadly, bullying is also the number one growing reason why youth under 25 commit suicide, feeling trapped by bullies in social media venues—bullies seek to make one feel that there is no way out and anybody who is there doesn’t give a hoot.

Professional cyber bullies patrol for victims of “Intellectual Property Appropriation” aka cyber bullying creative-types, small business start-ups and optimistic owners trying to survive their first vulnerable year in business. These kinds of bullies may call themselves CEOs or seed fund founders.

Bullying has become a big reason why a new-wave of parents is choosing to send their children to private schools. The fear of “sports bullying” keeps average athletes from enjoying community recreational programs.

Our world is a world that now offers defense training classes, thrice weekly afterschool Karate sessions and early, early entry into preschool at age 1 and 2 as a strategy to assimilate children into a given school tribe, making them less vulnerable to bullies had their children entered school, horror of horror, as an “over-the-hill” kindergartener!

And so, time has come for communities to teach its citizens how to recognize and stand up to bullies, whether they are neighbor bullies, customer bullies or cyber bullies.

For ten years, I taught unarmed civilian peacekeepers how to employ non-violent strategies in worn-torn areas like Nicaragua, Bosnia and South Africa.

What I learned from experts from the UN and Harvard and UC Berkeley, with whom I worked alongside, is the following:

Bullies don’t go away, they get worse

Bullies will move on to another victim and another and another and another

Bullies manipulate and lie to their co-conspirators and are often masters of manipulation and double identities

Bullies’ energy comes from a place of deep anger and complex psychological damage; you can’t fix nor convert a bully

Bullies attempt to isolate, defame and sanitize their aggression–there is always a reason the victim is at fault. Someone else is always the cause of their stalking, lying, hostility and aggression

Edmund Burke’s famous line that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” sums up what bullies want most from others: passivity.

It is normal to bemoan the fact that we can’t change the world. There is so much poverty, injustice, dehumanization and destruction in this world. Bullying writ-large is the cause of domestic violence, war and terrorism. Can we really change the world?

Yes, you can change the world for the better. Right now, where you live, where you work, you can stand up to the bully in your midst. It might be scary at first, but you, too, can stand up to that bully in your neighborhood, that bully at the ball field, that bully in your office. If you do this, you will have, indeed, changed the world for the better.

Bullies are hurting people in need of an alternative world-view, a way out of their oppressive addiction. Make no mistake about it, bullying is an addiction, the addiction of narcissism coupled with the passivity of good citizens doing nothing.

Jodi Weisz is the Managing Partner of Weisz & Arens, a boutique public relations firm based out of Los Angeles, California with an office in Greenwich, CT. She holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois and is a frequent consultant to organizations seeking to implement anti-bullying programs.


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