Millions of bloggers around the world will be blogging today on Blog Action Day (Oct. 15, 2012) about The Power of We. You’ll see all sorts of great stories about how groups of people made a difference.
Because I’m a crime fiction writer, I wanted to take a different angle – The Dark Side of The Power of We. The power of groups to wound or destroy.
Coincidentally, October is also Anti-Bullying Month.
Most articles and studies about bullying deal with bullying among children, but little is said about bullying among adults. In this article, I’ll focus more on horse people, but bullying is an equal opportunity offender.
Is there bullying among horse people?
You bet, especially cyber-bullying in online groups, forums and social media.
The odds are good that no matter what you do with your horses – or any animal under your care – someone out there will take issue with your choices. Nowadays with social media, strangers have the capability of taking you to task in public.
Do we learn this from horses?
We horse people revere a herd animal with a genetic predisposition to live in groups with individuals ranked according to status. The Boss Horse is the horse that tells the others where to stand and when they can eat. The Boss horse enjoys the first and best resources, like food and water, or access to the strongest mates. A trade off is expected – the Boss is expected to lead and even protect.
I believe herd animals aren’t alone in this kind of programming. Human bullies get to the top by any means necessary, especially through intimidation, and forget about the part in which they’re also expected to protect.
What are we really teaching?
A lot of bullying happens in the guise of education. Yet, bullying only turns off the intended audience.
Yes, there’s a lot of sloppy horsemanship and horse keeping out there. A lot of people who care for horses don’t know as much as they need to know to keep everyone involved healthy and happy. Or they rely on old ways that may provide short-term rewards but set up for later long-term heartache and expense.
Yelling at them, calling them names, threatening them, generalizing and even stereotyping them isn’t going to help. My mother always told me, “I stopped listening when you raised your voice.” Unfortunately, a quiet voice is drowned out by many voices shouting at each other.
So, how do you know when you’re bullying?
You might be a bully if …
- you refer to any group as “they,” “them” or “those people”
- you engage in name-calling
- you have to type in all caps to express yourself
- you feel a little zing of power when you write
- you make people feel they can’t express a dissenting opinion
- you’re proud you get kicked off loops and websites for expressing your strong opinions
- you don’t care that you have a reputation for not getting along because you “tell it like it is” because living, feeling beings like your beloved ones are at stake
See? No wonder children can’t get it right, either, when the adults in their lives believe forcing their opinions on anyone is acceptable behavior.
We live in interesting times, and they’ve been a long time coming. Not that long ago, someone who’d “get up in your face” was the new spunky. We listen to “shock jocks” every morning on the radio. We used to watch a game show in which the loser was told, “You are the Missing Link. Goodbye!” A TV talent show judge minces no words and becomes a cultural icon as a hatchet man. Now, regular people shout politics at each other on social media just like the political pundits on TV. (I’m revising this post a bit four years later. The US presidential candidates are now infamous for bullying.)
So much popular culture elevates bullying to entertainment. We all have to watch ourselves. It’s easy to be a bully, even with patience and a deep sense of right and wrong. We’ve lived on the slippery slope for so long we’ve forgotten we’re out of balance.
Back to horse people. If we bicker and bully among our own, will parents send their children to us for lessons and summer camp? Will non-horse owners vote along with us when laws come along that could benefit or be detrimental to us?
Then again, parents are subject to the same cultural waves as we are. Some may want to teach their children how to be dominant. I can’t help but think of that scene in BEETLEJUICE (1988) in which a mother storms up the stairs to confront the ghosts haunting the house and tells her teenage daughter, “Lydia, I have a chance to teach you something here: you have got to take the upper hand in all situations or people, whether they’re dead or alive, will walk all over you.”
Even if it isn’t in our personal natures, the need to dominate has become such a large part of our cultural landscape that it seems to be the norm.
We have the gift of Free Will, so we can choose to rise above our natures and the times in which we live and accept the risks. We may not be heard among the din, and we may be heard enough to draw the fire onto ourselves. The courage to listen to the voices of our better angels is the everyday version of the power of we.
For more about adult bullying, click on the link
And a big “thank you” to Marian Lanouette, author of the Jake Carrington mysteries, starting with IF I FAIL.