Only a few weeks have gone by since Chiara, a twelve year old girl from Pordenone (Italy) decided to put an end to the bullying she had become a victim of by letting herself plummet from a bedroom window. Fortunately the fall was broken by an open blind just below the family's apartment. Chiara was severely hurt but managed to survive. Although we are all overjoyed to hear that she is recovering physically, shock and concern as to the extreme decision of a child to take her life remains. A decision that is forced upon victims of bullying and cyberbullying by peers, " bullies " who project their fragility on to others by using violence, in an attempt to fill the voids produced by a society that has become increasingly incapable of fostering, nourishing and understanding the value of feelings and emotions, thus, hurtling youth into a vortex of solitude, in a world where conformism and materialism are expressions of popularity, power and strength.
Some analysts of the phenomenon, in Italy, argue that bullying is inevitable, part of life, where nature divides us into " bullies and hypersensitive beings. " They also say that: " During adolescence those with fragile minds have always desired to be accepted by the popular pack whose arrogance and number become a depiction of strength."
According to this statement the desire to be part of "the pack" slithers into the mind of a twelve year old girl, whom in turn finds herself rejected, intimidated and humiliated by her peers. The psychological violence is enough to destroy the young girl's self -esteem, leaving her alone as she struggles and tries to cope with a sense of worthlessness.
Parents and teachers have no way of reaching her on that far away " planet " of desperation where the " fragile minds " of youth find refuge. The theory is left without a solution, for there is no remedy capable of curing the human need to be " accepted and acknowledged " by the pack.
But do we truly believe that Chiara needed and wanted to be part of the pack? Or did she simply wish to be left alone? Was she only asking to be free to live her life in peace, without having to feel like a prey that is being hunted down?
Does the decision to attempt suicide stem from a " hypersensitive " person with a " fragile mind "? Or is it the reaction to pain and isolation caused by the kind of adolescent cruelty that some authorities confuse with primordial impulses of future leaders?
There are many theories which try to explain the causes of physically and psychologically violent behavior in children and teens. One of the given reasons is the need to overpower and destroy the other person's diversity in order to dominate and feed the lack of kindness that sadly characterizes a bully's personality. Aggressive youth will find any excuse to begin attacking: the prettiest, the most intelligent, the new kid, the boy from a different country, the girl with different religious beliefs, the child who suffers obesity, the " ugliest ", the least " intelligent ", the homosexual... are all potential targets of bullies.
Others consider bullying a Darwinian instinct that places us at the mercy of natural inclinations regulated by the law of the jungle. As though humans, like animals, are susceptible to violence when survival is at stake.
In the first case the solution is to be found in education. Schools should teach children to " put themselves in the other person's shoes," empathy, to live according to the golden rule: " Treat others like you would like to be treated. " However, in this day and age where callousness and inhumanity have grabbed hold of us all, such a morally benevolent answer appears unrealistic, even though it is inspired by the best intentions. It " appears " that way because our quest to reestablish a culture devoted to altruism, tolerance, gentleness and peace has just begun.
The second solution suggests that bullies be assigned roles of responsibility within schools in order to soothe and ease the Darwinian instincts they are prisoners of.
It would be interesting to ask Chiara which of the two solutions she thinks would help prevent and cure bullying. As a survivor of bullying I have a hunch she might pick the first.
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