There are days when I feel very optimistic about this world we live in. I know there are endless numbers of individuals, collectives, civil society groups, organizations, companies, agencies and movements out there, working as hard as they can to improve the lives of others around them, help those who are less fortunate, strive for a better world for all of us.
Then there are days like this, when I click on an article on Mashable, and want to barf up the falafel burger I was eating. This particular article was about a topic I wrote about previously – bullying – but unlike in the case of Jillian Jensen, who inspired the previous post, this time things didn’t end happily. Jillian got the best of her bullies and basically gave them the finger by performing amazingly in front of millions of people on X-Factor, but fifteen-year old Amanda Todd couldn’t fight her persecutors anymore. As a result of meticulous, systematic, cruel and utterly horrifying bullying, that apparently lasted for several years, Amanda took her own life at the age of 15.
On days like this, I fight very hard not to lose all hope in humanity. On days like this, I cannot help but wonder what has driven us to a point where having any ability for compassion, for understanding, and for kindness seem to be qualities in human beings that are quickly becoming extinct. On days like this, I cannot help but wonder – What the f*** is wrong with us?
I am extremely mad – ask my husband, he is the one bearing the brunt of my anger and frustration. I am so mad, so angry, that a fifteen-year old child has had to go through the utter hell and horror that Amanda Todd went through, trying over and over again to escape it to different schools and different cities, only to have her bullies follow her, or new ones emerge. Human beings are like wild beasts on prey – we somehow seem to be able to smell blood and weakness and easily identify those who are already beaten down and too tired to escape. We are a cruel species, and on days like this I am ashamed to call myself human.
This has been a week that has really tested my fate in humanity and anything good in this world. First, there was the case of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year old Pakistani girl shot by a member of the Taleban because she dared to speak against gender-based discrimination and demand her right to education. I have also been reading a lot about being a woman in India lately, since I currently live here in Bangalore, and work with gender equality issues. Turns out, India is kind of a crappy place for women – starting from female infanticide, the purposeful abortion of female fetuses because of favoring of boys, girls and women in India suffer from pretty much every imaginable (and unimaginable) form of gender-based discrimination and violence. To top it all off, I also came across coverage of a case involving a young Texan mother, who had apparently lost her temper while potty training her 2-year old, and as a result decided the right course of action was to glue the child’s hands into a wall and practically beat her to pulp. She survived, but was in a coma for several days as a result of bleeding in her brain, and suffered from multiple fractured ribs, bruises and other damage to her tiny, fragile, 2-year old body.
Now, at this point, I have to repeat: What the f*** is wrong with us?
I apologize for the language, but these things just make me so utterly, uncontrollably angry, that I don’t quite know what to do with it. I cry, yes. I cry every time I read about things like these. Sometimes I shout, usually at my poor husband who obviously has done nothing wrong, but just happens to be the person close to me when I boil over. And you know what – the thing that sometimes freaks me out the most is the fact that others don’t react the same way to these stories.
I know we all pick our battles. I know none of us can save everyone, and I know we can’t bear the entire weight of the evil in this world on our shoulders – but sometimes I feel like we are so overwhelmed with all the horrible things happening around us that we just shut off. Maybe it is a defense mechanism, maybe it’s just the sane thing to do – but at the same time, we cannot lose our ability to feel sadness, pain, compassion and utter rage over events like these. We have to be angry. We have to yell and cry, because if we don’t, I don’t know how they are ever going to change. We have to dare to feel, to fall to pieces, to to absolutely apeshit when some idiot glues her daughters hands into a wall, or some gutless teenagers bully their peer to death. We absolutely HAVE TO react to it – because it is just utterly, thoroughly, completely wrong.
“What can I do, then?”, You ask. Well. You obviously can’t save Amanda Todd, you can’t undo what happened to that 2-year old girl in Texas, and you can’t get in between Malala and the bullet that almost killed her – but you can, and you must, do everything in your power within your personal life to stand up against abuse, discrimination, violence, bullying, mistreatment of others, and any other action you very well know in your heart and head, and every other body part you have, to be wrong. Just like poverty, violence and abuse are often generational – they repeat themselves within families and nations from generation to generation, unless we stop the cycle. You can talk to your children about bullying and, in addition to ensuring they are not bullied, also making sure they are not bullies either. You can stop saying nasty things and being an asshole to your classmate/co-worker/neighbor/anyone else who is gay/lesbian/bi/transgender/too fat/too thin/foreigner/of another race/different than you in any other possible way, because Your Way is not the Right Way. There is No One Right Way of Being a Human Being. You can intervene when you see bullying happening in your school or work place, and stand up for the one being bullied in stead of lining up to throw the next punch. You can make sure your friends know how you feel and think, and you can try to promote the same behavior in them too – behavior that is based on the understanding that all human beings deserve a certain level of respect and dignity, and that we all have to co-exist here on this globe together, and that while we cannot always relate to how other people live their lives, or we cannot always understand those who are different, it does not mean we cannot tolerate it.
There is plenty you can do, and I can do, and we all can do. And for not doing those things, we all should be ashamed – because what happened to Malala, and Jillian, and Amanda, and the two-year old in Texas, and girls and women in India and all over the world – well, it’s not just an isolated failure. It’s our collective failure – like a global bankruptcy of compassion and kindness – and the only way to fix it is to strive for collective change, together. Otherwise.. Well. I think we’ll be pretty fu****.