By Loraine Debnam
After the recent and untimely death of pop star Prince, the networks re-broadcast some of his very rare interviews.
His musical talent crossed many genre boundaries. But, because he had a flamboyant personality and was known for his extravagant dress and make-up, he did not fit society’s definition of “normal.”
He became the target of intense cyberbulling and commented more than once, “it’s a mean world out there.”
There have been bullies in our world since time began. Biblically, young children are told the stories of Daniel in the lions’ den and David and Goliath to help them understand the significance of facing down a bully.
Throughout history there have been individuals and groups who were the targets of the threats and intimidation of others who did not agree with them. Certainly, the Mayflower would never have set sail for North America if the Pilgrims held out any hope of remaining in peace in their homeland.
Yet, less than seventy years later, the Salem Witch Trials pitted one colonist against another because of differences in beliefs. There are many examples in history, where a web of lies created a rumour, which was then spread by gossipers and resulted in the loss of reputations, livelihoods and for some, even lives.
Today’s so called “modern” society is even worse in my opinion. The development of social media now gives rise to the global cyberbullying to which Prince was subjected.
E-mail, text messaging, blogs, websites and chat rooms provide a myriad of opportunities for harmful, harassing and even threatening comments. On-line cruelty, insults and lies are creating openings for those who believe they are anonymous and make up for their own inadequacies by attacking others.
Although we tend to focus on the alarming statistics of abuse targeting our young people, they are not the only targets. Judgments are made — and voiced loudly — on race, sexual orientation, height, weight, religion, ethnicity, and (of course) politics. The intent is to intimidate and instill fear in the recipients.
Environmental activists, civil liberty advocates, animal rights groups, journalists, writers and cartoonists, are regularly attacked for having and expressing an opinion that is different. Aggressive language, personal slurs and negative verbal comments are made in an attempt to silence the receivers.
Unfortunately, the disconnected individuals who spew their bitterness, hatred and venom are sometimes successful in their mission.
It’s incredibly hard to fight this kind of denigration, even with the assistance of local and national authorities. The outrage, anger and disappointment in those who are the targets can lead to frustration and depression.
A rodeo cowboy, an overweight teenager, a vegan chef, a refugee, a flashy and ostentatious musician, a man who enjoys video games, a woman with an ostrich handbag, a child with freckles or glasses — anyone could be an object of cyberbullying.
The devastation it can cause is horrendous. I think this is a time when the Golden Rule is totally appropriate.
It really is a mean world out there, be sure you’re not someone who is adding to it.