I was in a management training seminar this past Tuesday when, casually glancing at my Twitter feed, I found it inundated with references to a 15-year-old Quebec girl who had just committed suicide after years of being the victim of bullying at school.
I didn’t get around to reading the letter Marjorie Raymond left her mother until the very next day, and when I did, the tears wouldn’t stop flowing.
“Chère maman! Je suis énormément désolée de ce que j'ai fait et sache que c'est loin d'être ta faute. Au contraire, je te ferai du mal sans le vouloir. Tu es la meilleure maman au monde. C'est juste que la vie, je n'en peux plus.”
Heartbreaking words… Words written to a mother who found her daughter’s dead body in the garage, while accompanied by Marjorie’s five-year-old sister. That image haunts me. I have no doubt it will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
And this tragic, mindless, preventable, and needless death was for what? It was simply the result of Marjorie having been the repeated victim – like so many other children in schoolyards everywhere around the world - of relentless intimidation and bullying.
Politicians, parents, teachers, students all had something to say on this tragedy. Suggestions ranged from zero tolerance on bullying, to trying to understand the reasons kids bully in the first place, to implementing an open-door policy that ensures that children victimized by bullying have somewhere to go and someone to speak to. But haven’t most of these measures already been implemented? Aren’t students being suspended and reprimanded on a daily basis for bullying? I don’t know at what point we have no choice but to take a harder look at the core of the problem.
Where does bullying stem from? Why do kids bully? What sense of isolation, lack of control and self-worth plagues these little “monsters” that they feel they have no recourse but to seek to grind everyone down to their level in order to feel worthy? It’s a sad statement of values lost and connections missed that young children spend so much time inflicting pain on others in order to feel important. Something’s not right.
Where does bullying stem from? Why do kids bully? What sense of isolation, lack of control and self-worth plagues these little “monsters” that they feel they have no recourse but to seek to grind everyone down to their level in order to feel worthy.
Cyber-bullying has added another element to bullying which previous generations could not have even fathomed! Once upon a time, a victimized kid could get much-needed respite from the bullying at school, by leaving the premises. Now, with the all-encompassing power and presence of computers, cell phones, text messages, and Facebook walls, bullying can be a 24/7 affair if one wants it to be. It can be relentless and inescapable. Imagine what that feels like to a terrified, depressed, anxious teenager!
I’ve always been an enthusiastic proponent of social media. That being said, I also recognize its incredible power for all that is vile and malevolent. The anonymous, disconnected way one can terrorize through cyberspace is akin to the way nuclear weapons changed the nature of war. The person doing the terrorizing, hunting, taunting, and killing never really gets to see the direct consequences of their actions. When you drop a nuclear bomb into a village with unsuspecting civilians, you don’t get to see the death and destruction you wreak. When you send a vicious and heinous anonymous message to someone via a text message, Twitter or Facebook, you don’t get to see how your words destroy that person.
A bully can act devoid of any accountability or consequences if he or she chooses to. It’s easy to be callous and cold under such circumstances, if you were never taught any other way, but the results, as evidenced by Marjorie’s suicide, are very real.
Pauline Marois was right when she said “we collectively have a responsibility.” I don't claim to have any answers; only bewilderment and sadness. But if you witness something that even remotely resembles bullying, don’t shrug your shoulders, don’t dismiss it as “kids will be kids”, don’t pretend you have no power to change your immediate surroundings. DO something about it. SAY something about it. You might be saving a life.