In Amsterdam, nowadays, 181 different nationalities live together in this capital of The Netherlands. Amsterdam is situated in the northern part, I was born and raised in the southern part of this small country. It always inspired me, this fact that so many people (838.338 in 2016), with so many different cultural backgrounds can live together without major conflicts.
Unfortunately, the sphere is changing. In Amsterdam, in The Netherlands in general. Intolerance is increasing, people seem to be increasingly frustrated with ‘the rich’, ‘the Muslims’, ‘the uneducated’, ‘the politicians’, ‘the whites’, ‘the tourists’, ‘the gays’, ‘the religious’. Sounds familiar? Indeed, similar to the frustrations we all noticed increasing around our globe.
What has this to do with bullying, you might wonder.
When children tease each other, it often is just harmless. They learn to stand up for themselves, learn how to share and most of the times it’s just about silly games they play. Their minds are not occupied with loaded topics as I mentioned above.
However, children can be(come) very mean among each other. We aren’t born mean, intolerant, violent, but at a certain age, unfortunately, we lose our innocence due to experiences growing up. Due to the knowledge gained from the examples of adults. Television, books, social media influences the way we view the world and also the people surrounding us.
Children hear and see more than you might presume.
Using a swear word during a fight with your spouse, your brother, your friend, your neighbor in front of a child, it may become a normal word for that child. A pair of glasses is nothing to be ashamed of. Telling a child, it is too heavy, but not explain at the same time you worry about its health, it could destroy its self-esteem. Sending your son or daughter to school with the message to stand up for him- or herself, use violence if necessary…
I remember being a girl, about 9 or 10 years old, always being bullied by one specific guy. Not wanting to hurt another child, but one day I had enough and I used a new learned trick from my Judo-class and floored the boy. He never bothered me again. Good for me, right? Well, I must admit back then it felt good, but now I think violence should never have to be an answer.
What if that boy had been taught not to bully anyone? What if I had been taught to only use my Judo-tricks in life-threatening situations?
Isn’t it high time, again, to at least try to set the right example, send the right message?
Being a child, being an adult… nobody wants to feel alone, no person wants to feel unworthy, no person wants to be bullied. Is it really too hard to think twice about what you say and what you do? To not judge a person by his or her skin-color, religious or cultural background, physical appearance, the way a salary is earned, gender, sexual preference, etc.? Yes, provided your neighbor has no intention to harm anyone.
Let alone violence, is bullying each other the answer? Is it going to be the new normal?
I strongly believe we can provide a better future for our children. It starts with you and me, by accepting each other’s differences. Turn those differences in the strength it could be. Let’s go back to the same sphere Amsterdam used to have:
Live, in harmony, together.