Friday, June 08, 2012

[Vital Signs Column] Beaten Up

Photo credit: blogdomendesemendes,
June 01-15, 2012 IssueVital Signs, is the FIRST newspaper for the medical community. It caters to doctors, health workers and other healthcare professionals, bringing them the latest health news, scientific updates, as well as opinions, and commentaries on current issues impacting healthcare delivery in the country. You can read Alvin Dakis' columns on nursing & social issues named Nurse's Notes in every Vital Signs newspaper published every 1st & 15th of the month. 

Little Johnny was a newcomer from another city; he speaks nothing like the vernacular language and knows nothing about the new culture he is in. He is usually silently sitting in his chair away from other children. He eats lunch alone, and walks home alone.

He is often teased as a sissy boy, often a laughing stock for being “soft”; he was even compared to soggy noodles. He was teased as “faggot” even by children across the street, children he even does not know. He was beaten by larger guys in his neighborhood. And he does not have the courage to tell anybody.

He was bullied and discriminated in his elementary school.

High school didn’t change much as he still experience bullying and teasing. He was called sissy, as he had been labeled during his elementary years, for he does not know how to play basketball and baseball with the other guys. No girls would like him. No guys would like him as well. He was found nowhere to be liked.

He was bullied and discriminated in his high school.

College was no stranger to him as the same events of discrimination happened. But this time things are quite different – he started to fight the discrimination by speaking up; empowering himself and developing his strengths in areas he is very much interested. He started to rise in the leadership ladder.

This Little Johnny is ME.

Yes, I was discriminated, bullied and hurt when I was young (and should I say even up to now). This is no different to countless children in schools and to many young people in workplaces. Discrimination and bullying are real.

Why bully?
When I was young I always ask myself why others would look down on me or why others would think it is alright to hurt someone when they appear, speak or act differently from them. I realized that these people who bully others are also victims of bullying themselves either by their parents or someone higher, older or in authority than them.

Bullied children tend to project their anger to other children which they perceive to be weaker or someone that they can scare or threaten because that is also how they perceived they are when they were physically or verbally abused.

Discrimination and bullying
Why do people bully? It’s because we learned to discriminate first. From the moment we learned to differentiate a boy from a girl, we learn to discriminate as well. In an uptight society like ours, we teach children how to become intolerant and outcast those who we think are different, unique and special.

Discrimination springs bullying and after the bullying is done, discrimination still remains. Bullying is the physical manifestation of an intense discrimination towards a person or belief.

But if we say bullying is the physical manifestation, does this mean there are other types of bullying and discrimination? Physical bullying is one of the most common and very identifiable while verbal and emotional/psychological bullying may become more detrimental to another person. Verbal bullying is at most of the time, more hurtful than the physical bullying. But then to most I encountered, physical bullying is often times accompanied with verbal and psychological bullying as well.

Coping with bullying
I was not physically bullied that much but I have been verbally and psychologically bullied and discriminated. Different people have different ways of coping with bullying and discrimination. Sadly, some cannot cope with it positively.

When people don’t cope with bullying when they were young they tend to become bully themselves when they grow up. Or they can become very introvert, shy and have low self-esteem. Others develop a personality that is tough, strict, inconsiderate and intolerant.

However, others are successful in overcoming this traumatic experience and are able to cope by empowering themselves. Some become very competitive in their chosen fields. Usually they choose a field opposite to those where they are the weakest and where they are bullied or discriminated. In my case, I developed my artistic and creative side, to counter one of my weakest – sports.

I started drawing and joining poster-making contests, essay writing contests and singing in our Children’s Choir when I was in elementary. Then I started singing solo, joined impromptu speaking & debating, hosting, and excelled academically in high school. Too much for one boy but during that time, I have only one goal – to be the best where they (the bullies) are not.

Others cope by excelling in their academic performance. This is one of the most common I noticed especially among young gay men (aside from their artistic talents of course). Gaining academic expertise is a great tool of influence and control. To some, this is one of the pre-requisite to lead people. Remember that in order to become a very influential leader, a certain level of academic expertise is much appreciated. Having this kind of expertise negates the effect of earlier bullying and discrimination and affirms that those people are wrong about that person. Having academic expertise also empowers the person and sets certain level of respect from the public.

People who have that strong desire to achieve and overly competitive usually have a deep history of either discriminated, bullied or ostracized. They may not be too honest telling people the real reason behind their extreme determination to succeed or achieve but we can be sure that this is one of the reasons.

Gaining leadership titles and roles are also ways to cope with bullying and discrimination. There are some who are too eager to get leadership roles because this is an avenue where they get a certain level immunity and reverence. Becoming a leader is not wrong, but there should be right reasons to lead, not to cover up from past hurts, or to use one’s status to also bully another. Egocentric and control-freak leaders are usually another bully who cloaks themselves in the prestige of leadership.

Anti Bullying Act Passed
Just recently the Anti-Bullying Act or House Bill 5496 was passed for the third and final reading that seeks to provide students, parents and guardians the awareness of the impact of bullying and how it can be prevented and also requires institutions to adopt policies that will address the existence of bullying in their respective schools or establishments.

Now that Anti-Bullying Act has been passed, I call upon Congress to pass Anti-Discrimination Bill as well. No one should be discriminated and bullied because of their differences and uniqueness. Our society should develop an environment of tolerance to individual differences, preferences and create mutual respect to one another.

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