Kids Are Cruel

We've all had our fair share of bullying served our way. Children, teenagers, and, of course, adults spot a vulnerability and strike to assert dominance. It almost sounds like something out of a wildlife documentary. The lower members of the pack find the position of alpha vacant; they draw blood at the possibility of achieving the title. These types of animals, from jackals to gorillas, use these tactics in a way approved by nature. After establishing their dominance through fighting and gore, the alphas are usually the only ones allowed to mate, guaranteeing that the pack's future offspring will be a strong set, equipped with the traits from the most able members of the pack. These offspring will have the best shot at survival. Their fighting is justified. Their intentions are far nobler and for more practical than those of humans. When humankind bullies, it is not for the good of the pack. Humans bully simply to hurt. In that way, "lesser" animals surpass us in wisdom.

A video posted on YouTube this week, bluntly titled "Making the Bus Monitor Cry," caused quite the stir in the media. A 68-year-old bus monitor, by the name of Karen Klein, is filmed being verbally abused, and sometimes physically swiped at, by middle-school children. This disgusting footage goes on for about 10 minutes; I could only will myself to watch a full two minutes and 35 seconds. The opinions in the comments section were enough to fill me in on the content of the remaining seven minutes and 34 seconds.

This video is horrible on two counts. First, let us examine the more obvious one. An elderly woman is being harassed by children less than a quarter of her age. These children taunt her with vulgar words, calling her a "fatass" and proclaiming her "ugly." When she starts tearing up less than one minute into the video, the children's tirade is not at all arrested. If anything, her tears seem to fuel their efforts, for the degree of their insults escalate to a point of no return. The most biting remark, according to a YouTube commenter, was the following: "You don't have a family because they all killed themselves because they don't want to be near you." It turns out Klein's son had committed suicide but a decade ago. I proceeded to skim the video further to verify this and, lo and behold, there was the quote, verbatim. Now, let us examine the second count of indecency associated with this video. It is something that Discovery News analyst, Talal Al-Khatib, terms "crowd-shaming" in his article, "Bus Monitor Bullying and Crowd-Shaming." Al-Khatib talks about a Batman-like perception of justice, the type where people take matters into their own hands, sometimes dangerously so. Basically, in the YouTube video description, the names of Klein's harassers are posted as well as the town's location and bus number. The town's location and bus number are pieces of information I expected to see. The names of the culprits, however? I knew that was instantly bound to cause more trouble than that already generated. Because of the speedy quick power of the Internet, people had no problem finding the Facebook pages of the kids named along with their contact information among other things. The Internet has no doubt introduced an entirely different, opportunistic type of "crowd-shaming." These kids will inevitably be harassed and threatened by people they do not know, people who think fighting fire with fire is justified.

The video in question is just another glimpse into the mundane realities of our society. Those children behaved in a horrid manner and the people who are planning on "bullying the bullies," as Al-Khatib phrases it, or have already done so, are equally as horrid. I applaud the anti-bullying efforts initiated by many schools around the country, including my own high school. But, I do not feel enough emphasis is being put on personal intervention. We are working towards preventing bullying, and that's great, but we need to instill a sense of initiative as well. In the moment, people naturally feel afraid to speak out against an injustice when the majority is in favor of it. The mute kid filming the video on his phone was just as much at fault as Klein's abusers. What about the rest of the bus's students? What about the driver? We have all been under the restraint of bystander syndrome. I am guilty of it. So are you, I'm sure. People need to realize that the goodness that comes with speaking out against a collective injustice far outweighs collective opposition. The treatment for bystander syndrome is courage. Will you muster up enough of it to make a difference? I certainly hope I can.