The theme for this year’s Anti Bullying Week is ‘Choose respect.’ I don’t think there’s ever been a time when we’ve needed this message more than we do right now.
Respect is the bedrock of a civilised society. We don’t have to like everybody – we may not be able to help disliking some people – but respect is a choice. We can always choose to behave respectfully.
Most people have always made that choice because incivility was not seen as socially acceptable, but the social norm is slipping because those at the forefront of public life – politicians and the news media – are no longer modelling respectful behaviour.
Leading politicians on both side of the pond are deliberately stirring up and sanctioning the abuse of minorities and the weak for their own ends. Leading news reporters aren’t interested in hearing reasoned argument, but instead choose to bombard interviewees with interruptions and aggressive questioning.
This is the culture our children are growing up in, but if we want them to turn away from bullying they need role models – rules are not enough.
Bullying isn’t just a problem among children in schools. It’s increasingly a social problem for us all, and the key to tackling it is not just focusing on bullying incidents but nurturing a non-bullying environment by making a positive decision at all times to behave with thoughtfulness, kindness and civility towards other people, irrespective of our differences.
I hope the theme for this year’s Anti Bullying Week will be a timely reminder to us all.