The impact of Bullying (stories)

Bullying may be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.

In October the whole world was shocked and outraged by the horrible story of Amanda Todd. Prior to her death, Todd posted a video on YouTube in which she used a series of flash cards to tell of her experience of being blackmailed, bullied, and physically assaulted. The video went viral after her death, resulting in international media attention.

A similar media frenzy occurred in the Netherlands after the suicide of 20 year old Tim Ribberink. His parents posted his goodbye note as obituary notice which led to nationwide attention to his tragedy.

Dear mum and dad,

My whole life I have been mocked, ridiculed, bullied and excluded. You are great.

I hope you are not angry.

See you, Tim


Everyone will agree that bullying is wrong, evil and should be banned from the world. After the stories like the ones described above bullied people are invited to radio and tv interviews and people demand that action is taken to reduce (preferably destroy) bullying in schools once and for all.

But how long does the topic really stick? It is almost December and the topic has almost died already. Politicians continue with their own agenda, a new topic to be outraged about comes up, and let’s not forget about Christmas, the time for love for all. So after the short burst of media attention the topic is forgotten, until another bullied teen takes his/her life in a remarkable setting. A normal teenage suicide is not sufficient, definitely not in December.

And why is that?

Bullying is a social phenomenon that is present where a group of people are together for a longer period.

I was not bullied growing up. I bullied growing up. There. I said it. I was a mean, insulting teenager, a breaker of weaker minds and souls. I have played mental warfare with people. Weak, vulnerable people mostly. I knew what I was doing too. I was fully aware that these people did not have many friends and just wanted to belong to our group. I did not let them. I told people they were not wanted. I do not remember having a reason to be mean to people besides me not liking them. Simple as that. As every child/teenager I struggled with finding out who was and what I wanted. Who I wanted to hang out with or have a crush on. And who I did not want to spend time with.

I am not proud of this. But I am not so naive as to think that I can change the cruelty of children and teenagers. I do not pretend that bullying stops at a certain age and is only a problem in schools.

I am not bullied as an adult. I do not bully as an adult. I know it happens though. People are being ignored, insulted, and mentally tortured by their adult peers. Bullying does not stop in high school, and adults can be just as cruel and mean as teenagers. But one is not supposed to be bullied as an adult; one should be able to deal with criticism. Grow some backbone. Not take it so seriously.

What I believe to be the root of bullying evil is the feeling of superiority we have. My belief is better than your belief. My country is better than your country. My political views are better than yours. If you do not believe what I believe, you are stupid and wrong. And I can tell the whole world you are stupid. Freedom of speech and so on. And teach my children that people that hold different views are stupid. “But my children are not bullies. Not my children. They are respectful and tolerant, just like me.” Right….

Bullying happens when someone is different in the eyes of the bully. Is a threat. If the bully wants to feel better about himself and attacks someone that cannot fend for him/herself.. Bullying is not restricted to the school or sports we use to go to. Is has nothing to do with age.

But I suppose that the once you have been bullied, you will always remember your first bullies. How hard and unfair it was. Arbitrarily even in most cases. Because you had glasses or funny teeth. The memory and pain will always stay with you. I hope you are being treated better now.

I hope that one day there will be no more bullying. But that is not enough for me. No more racism. No more religious battles fought with real bombs and guns. No more intolerance towards gays and lesbians.

It takes more to make better world. A lot more. From everybody. And not only after your cried about a teenage suicide. All the time. Developed yourself. Learn about a different culture. Accept differences. Because if you will not, I bet your children will neither.


Filed under Asia, Europe, USA

Tolerance in the Netherlands

English: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in V...

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week a Dutch independent foundation (SIRE) launched a new campaign. The campaign aims to create awereness of a increasingly intolerant attitude among the Dutch and promote a more tolerant attitude. For the people that are not so familiar with the Dutch language I have taken the main points stated on the website and translated them for the international audience.

Frequently asked questions on the webstite:

Has the Netherlands become more intolerant?

The Netherlands is known for its liberal and tolerant values. Unfortunately the past two decades the Netherlands has become less tolerant. On many aspects it is still a very tolerant country, however there are also disturbing developments.

23% of the Dutch would object to the building of an asylum center in their town.

Only 46% feels that East-Europeans should be allowed to work in the Netherlands.

Almost a quarter of the Dutch thinks that wearing a head-scarf should be forbidden.

A third is in favor of a prohibition of building new mosques.

I have ordered tolerance but have not received a package. Did something go wrong with delivery?

Tolerance is not in a package. It comes from within. So you can start using tolerance immediately!

If I run out of tolerance, what do I do?

What you should not do is get angry at everyone and everything. Tolerance does not deplete. It could be that temporarily you feel less tolerant. What works well is take a deap breath, count to ten and have a quick moment of contemplation. After that you can respond more calm and nuanced.

Where can I use tolerance?

Tolerance works always and everywhere. Think about where you could use some tolerance. Try it in a traffic jam, at work, on the internet, on the football pitch or on the train. You will see that it works!

Does tolerance have side-effects?

Tolerance has side-effects, but only positive ones. It might happen that people start to like you more, which gives you a busier social life.

Go to the Dutch Tolerance website


I can only compliment the foundation with this initiative and support it completely. Many developed countries are dealing with a multi-cultural society and the problems related to a heterogene population. The ability of mankind for diversity among race, belief, culture, political views and general values should be appreciated, not seen as a problem. A world where everyone thinks and feels the same way about issues would be quite boring wouldn’t it?

Is there something similar like this campagin in your country? Please comment and share the promotion of tolerant behavior.

1 Comment

Filed under Europe

Women’s rights versus Religion

Another week in politics. Republican Richard Mourdock has this to say:

„Life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen”.

Commentators considered this controversial. No shit! This is not merely controversial, this gives me goosebumps. It is a prime example of how religion impedes women’s rights.

When do the religions of the world adapt to the modern society? When do religious people realize that science and technology are moving us forwards, changing the way we live? The knowledge, skills and capabilities we have obtained over the years drastically changed our way of living. The Bible is written by men, so is the Koran. Wise men probably, bestseller authors definitely. Women’s place in society is no longer only a slave of men and mother of children. They are as valuable to society as men. We have the opportunity to choose whether or not we want to have children, we have to take the responsibility to choose wisely. Getting children is not a requirement to avoid extinction, it is a decision to make by a man and a women. Together they are the foundation of our society. Not men. Not women. It is as if people forget that in order to get children you need both. Educate the world about contraception, about the wonders and hells of parenthood and keep the opportunity for abortion open.

In my opinion abortion is not a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not against it. I merely say this because it appears to me it is a draining event, having a significant impact on a woman, physically as well as psychologically. With contraception and proper education the number of abortions could be significantly reduced worldwide. But accidents do happen. Unfortunately rape does happen. I am glad that the women that do get pregnant accidently or forcibly have the possibility to choose whether or not they are willing and able to look after a baby. It is a good thing that the opportunity exists; the actual act will never be a good thing.

Soviet poster circa 1925. Title translation:

Soviet poster circa 1925. Title translation: “Abortions performed by either trained or self-taught midwives not only maim the woman, they also often lead to death.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Filed under Religion, USA

Tolerant people of the past: Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Tolerant person of the past: Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and spiritual leader of India.


Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most influential Indians of the last century is most famous for his non-violent civil disobedience. He was the leader of Indian Nationalism in British- ruled India. Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.

What would he say if he would look at the world today? How would he respond to the movie “Innocence of Muslims” and the following protests? Gandhi also had to deal with violent clashes between religions, and even though he was a great man, he could not stop it from happening. However it is argued that without his presence and persistence on non-violence the clashed would have been bigger, bloodier and deadlier. He had to live with racism while living in South-Africa, and deal with the intricate caste-system in India upon his return. The troubles of today are not that different from the troubles back then. Religions battle for ownership of absolute truth, creating enemies out of everyone who does not belief the same.

Democratic freedom has been won by India, and people live (mostly) in peace. In the Middle-East however this freedom has not been won in most countries, or has only been won recently and the political struggle has not (yet) evolved into a democratic political process. But the dictator has been beaten, the dragon has been slain, but the world did not change overnight. There is the need for an enemy, someone needs to be blamed. The difficult political relationship that has evolved over the past decades between the Western World and the Middle-East creates a platform for the search of an enemy. And when the insults keep coming, it is easy to hate.

Gandhi promoted asceticism; compassion for all forms of life; the importance of vows for self discipline; vegetarianism; fasting for self-purification; mutual tolerance among people of different creeds; and “syadvad,” the idea that all views of truth are partial.

Mutual tolerance of people of different creeds.

The idea that all views of truth are partial.

In times like these we could use someone to stand up and be the new Gandhi.

“Be the change that you want to see in the world”


Series: Tolerant people of the past

Charlie Chaplin

Mother Theresa


Freedom of speech vs Innocence of Muslims



Filed under Asia, Middle-East, Religion, Tolerant people of the past, USA

Freedom of speech versus “Innocence of Muslims”

The past week the world was once again shocked by violent demonstrations in the Middle-East. The reason was the controversial anti-Islam movie “Innocence of Muslims”.  The movie shows Mohammed in the desert with several of his followers. He says they can kill men, take women prisoner and sell children as slaves. He encourages them to do whatever it takes to spread “There is only one God and his Prophet is Mohammed”.  

The real identity of the movie maker is still unknown. The spokesman for the movie-maker, Jewish American Steve Klein, states that “Sam Bacile” is a Christian with Middle-Eastern roots.  The goal of the movie was “to go for the radical one percent (of Muslims)”. The main source of distribution stems from an Egyptian Coptic Christian living in the USA, looking for attention for the discrimination and attacks of Christians in Egypt.

Steve Klein says in the interview he does not have blood on his hands. He states that he is an expert on Islamic issues and on what Mohammed did. He wanted to support a movie that told the truth. “If there is blood on anyone’s hands I’d point my finger to (*drums please*) Hillary Clinton and the state department   for criminal negligence for not protecting the ambassador.”

Summing up the price of this week’s freedom of speech:

Libya: On Monday the American ambassador and three of his diplomats were killed during demonstrations.

Yemen: Current death toll is four; at least 15 people got injured. And maybe not related, but interesting enough to mention:  on Monday there was an attack on the Minister of Defense. He survived, 8 of his security staff and 5 civilians did not.

Egypt:  One American flag

Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan: Protest against the movie, no facts found about injuries

Iran: Because there is no American Embassy in Iran the protesters decided to go to the Swiss Embassy. Do not ask me for the logic behind this.


Goal Achieved: The world has seen that there are right-wing Islamic extremists in the Middle-East. The Western world condemns the violence and the footage of the protesters creates fear of Muslims.

I am a big supporter of freedom of speech, and I am happy that I live in a country where I can write pretty much anything I want. But with great freedom, comes great responsibility. I do not use this freedom to create hate, anger, nor discrimination. I know there are extreme people in the world; I do not need to provoke them to prove my point. And it is obvious that the movie is nothing more than a provocation, telling millions of people in the world that their Prophet was a raving madman. I assume that most Muslims look at the movie, comment about how shitty it is, take the insult and move on with their lives. But what we see in the media is not most Muslims; it is the small radical group of Muslims. The most dangerous group obviously, but not a reason to believe that the whole Middle-East is filled with only radical extremists.

The role of the media is crucial in this case. Instead of only showing rioting extremists, it is important that influential Muslims from the Middle-East that distance themselves from the violence are heard. Just as you have probably seen Mrs. Clinton distancing the American Government from the movie, the other side should also be shown from a Muslim perspective.  Even though the footage of rioting people is more spectacular, the media should provide a more neutral perspective.

The Quran does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, but there are a few hadith (supplemental teachings) which have explicitly prohibited Muslims from creating visual depictions of figures. Still, many Muslims who take a stricter view of the supplemental traditions will sometimes challenge any depiction of Muhammad, including those created and published by non-Muslims. The difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims can be compared with the difference between Catholics and Protestant Christians. Catholic churches have many iconic images of Jesus and other saints, while Protestant churches are more sober and without (many) images. The same principal applies to Sunni and Shia Muslims.

I am an agnostic, I believe that truth of certain claims are unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable. Therefore I do not fully understand the anger of the Muslims about such a bad movie.  But I have even less understanding for the maker of the movie. It is obvious from the movie that the maker wants to anger and insult the Muslim society.

The tolerance issue here is a difficult one. What should we tolerate and what not? Freedom is speech is a key freedom in a democratic society. So even if you make an insulting film it should be tolerated. Violence and murder should never be tolerated. So what is the verdict you ask? Who is right?

The thing is: both the movie-maker and the Muslim demonstrators are wrong! Freedom of speech is there to make yourself heard if there is something in your society that you want attention for. But the movie-maker is only hate-mongering, depicting all Muslims as vile raving madmen. I believe in being tolerant towards other people’s believes. One could argue that the Muslims want to force everyone to believe the same, but they are not guiltier in that as that Christians. Both religions state to hold the absolute truth. Only one prophet is the “real son of God” and my book holds the true word of God. Battle it out between yourself, but leave the people that just want to live their own lives out of it.

Use freedom of speech for good, not to point your finger to something you don’t agree with.

Demonstrate for something good, not against something your belief states is forbidden.

Take your life into your hands, and stop hiding behind your religion to disagree with other people. Different cultures have different values and traditions. Stop making everyone think the same, eat the same and talk the same as you do. Life will be a boring place if you succeed.


Filed under Middle-East, Religion, USA