I’ve noticed a somewhat disturbing trend among some police procedural shows – especially ones like Cold Case and Criminal Minds – very often the victim of the crime was a shining spirit, a unique and special individual. It’s as though they are sending a subtle (or maybe unsubtle) message that to be special, to rise above the average is worthy of punishment. It’s reminiscent of slasher flicks in which the rowdy, promiscuous and out of control teens are killed but the virginal “good girl” is spared.
You can see this message reinforced on any schoolyard in the country (maybe even the world); the mob mentality. Whenever a child is different – smarter, “nerdy”, awkward, vulnerable, the pack turns on that child. They mock and ostracize the child. Some children learn to adapt and blend in order to survive. Others suffer and eventually snap resulting in horrific situations like Columbine or suicide. There are some who endure, convinced that they will reap the benefits of their unique gifts as they grow older. They are often called adaptive children. They can look at the most horrific situations and see the silver lining.
I sometimes ponder if this type of attitude towards those who are different is because they hold up a mirror to us and we don’t like what we see. In work situations, I’ve often seen it when a new employee full of new ideas and enthusiasm runs smack into the wall of apathy and dissatisfaction sometimes found in long-term employees. The newcomer is mocked and derided for being so optimistic. What is wrong with hopefulness and optimism? Nothing, unless you have already jettisoned yours. Why do resent someone else’s success? Because we see it as a negative commentary on our current status. Are we not as successful because we didn’t try as hard? Is it really all about being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right people? I’m not sure. What I know is that I often feel an initial flash of resentment and envy at someone else’s good fortunes. It doesn’t last and I usually acknowledge it but that doesn’t stop it from occurring.
Sometimes even the targets of this type of bullying can become bullies and ostracize peers if the circumstances are right. Have you ever seen a group of artistic students who mock the jock who wishes to participate in their activity? Or the “nerds” who mock the popular beauty queen? Is this a defense mechanism or revenge for past moments of ostracism? I’m not sure. This is certainly a much more complex topic than I can address within the confines of this blog.
What I do know is that I’ve caught myself doing it. When I attend events like the Tarot School’s Readers Studio, I have noticed that the larger the group, the most I self-select with whom I interact. I become more clique-ish and clubby. If I catch myself doing this I often make efforts to stop the behavior but it is usually so unconscious that I don’t realize it. It’s not an aspect of my personality of which I am proud. In fact It’s something I wish to minimize or eliminate altogether.
I would like to challenge anyone reading this blog post – let’s eliminate this tendency to mock or ostracize those who are different from us. Children are not the only ones who bully – adults are just more subtle about it. Let’s try to minimize this shadow in the world and teach children by our own examples. Reach out to someone who is different from you. Who knows maybe you’ll learn something transformative from them.