Category Archives: Europe

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.

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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.

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Say no to Racism

Last week was the commemoration of the 1992 Rostock racism riot. It was the worst mob attack against foreigners in postwar Germany. Several hundred right-wing extremist were involved, and about 3000 neighborhood onlookers stood by, supporting them. Supporting them! The violent, racist extremist! What have happened in the decade after this horrible day? Is Europe nowadays a safer place for foreigners? I wish I could say discrimination is gone, but I fear we move more into the old habit of us versus them. Isn’t it time to look each other in the eyes and see we both want to same? Live a happy, fulfilling life?

I believe in equality of all human beings, regardless of nationality, skin-color or religion. I do not care if you are black, white, brown, yellow, Christian, Muslim, Greek, Belgium, Afghan, or American. I do not see myself as only a Dutch person in a foreign country, I see myself as an individual that tries to make to most out of his life. And I work hard to make it happen. But I am lucky. I am man, white, not religious and Dutch. I speak three languages fluently and am open and friendly. Some of my traits were given, some were taught, some I had to teach myself. But I do not think myself better than a woman, black, Muslim and Turkish that only speaks one language. I cannot judge her for I do not know which opportunities were given to her. I think her life is probably harder than mine. I am given plenty of opportunities to work, learn and develop; I doubt she is given the same.

Instead of blaming foreigners for the crisis the country (e.g. European Union) is in, look at what options are given to them. An easy blame-game would be to pass the ball to the husband, the immigrant worker who is not integrating and is sticking to his own traditions and beliefs. But that is too easy. In order to integrate one has to feel welcome, and integration, just as tolerance, is a too-way street.

All to often you hear the “integration problem” discussed by politicians, or maybe even with your neighbor. But what is this problem really? That people from a different culture keep their own traditions? Or that they still have a different skin-color? I do not think that living in a rainy country for a long period will make your skin-color turn white, so stop expecting that! People should stop thinking in boxes, and realize that working together is a win-win situation for the whole world. Provide opportunities for people to make a positive impact on the world, invest in the development of all people. Stop discriminating other people because they look different or have different traditions.

My belief is that tolerance and respect for other people is the stepping stone for the future. You do not have to share my belief; my belief does not require you to. I do not assume to hold the absolute truth, but I do belief that you don’t either.

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Filed under Europe, Foreigner

Reasons to be Tolerant of Gay people

There is still a lot of debate about the rights and duties of gay and lesbian people. I have started a short list with points why we should be tolerant of gay/lesbian people. The list is not complete, I would like you to contribute to make the list as long as possible. Of course my statements cannot apply to all gay people, just as statements about hetero people can never apply to all “straight people”. I do not mean to offend anybody; I am trying to create a tolerant community where everything can be discussed. As long as the comments are written with respect for other people, feel free to join the discussion.Gay Parade

I believe gay (that obviously includes lesbians, bisexuals and trans-genders) people should be tolerated because…

 

1. They are valuable members of our society.

Everyone can think of someone that they believe is providing value for their community and that happen to be gay. The music industry has plenty of famous, talented gay people. Also in politics one sees high positioned gay people. The German minister of Foreign Affairs (Guido Westerwelle) for example, or the Dutch minister of Finance (Jan Kees de Jager). And there are millions of gay people working hard in all industries, just like you and me trying to make a decent living and to live a happy fulfilling life.

 

2. They are fighting to be accepted and tolerated without forcing their own beliefs on other people.

Gay people are not trying to convince you to be gay. They do not feel offended that you do not feel the same way as they do. They are open and tolerant towards others beliefs. They are fighting to get equal rights as gay couples, being able to marry and adopt children. Why should anybody have a problem with that? Give them the same rights; they already have the same duties as everyone else!

 

3. They got style and guts.

Gay people are very influential in the fashion world. One could say they just have a keener eye for fashion but I think it is also because they have guts. They are not afraid to come up with new trends and think outside the box. Fashion would be quite boring if everyone would only design conformist outfits.

 

4. I have started with the first three reasons, it is up to you to make number four!

 

 

 

 

 

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