With the suicide of the 22-year-old Japanese wrestler Hana Kimura last month, one wonders sometimes about the language on social media and if those who do the bullying should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Bullying was a common thing when I was growing up, being a Jewish kid from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. It was the common thing to be bullied in and out of school. And if I complained to my dad, all he would do was hurl comments back at me like, "Man-up! Toughen-up, kid!", to the point that as a child, I began taking boxing lessons, my first introduction into the martial-arts world. After that, the five bullies who would beat me up every day and harass me for six months, suddenly stopped! Why? With my newfound knowledge in boxing and jujitsu skills, I punched one of them on the nose and all the bullies stopped their taunts. Eventually as adults they later became my friends. But those were different times, when violence was fought with violence and we were tough-street kids from Brooklyn – growing up in a tougher world.
Now take a weak child who cannot stand up for himself/herself. Somebody who is easily weakened by the taunts, it would drive anybody mad enough to commit suicide.
Some people might say, "But it is just words; who cares?"
Well, at least I do; some of these comments are from downright nasty to cruel. I have read statements on the Internet towards others and it can get real bad. Often, it can get wild! Without any regard for humanity. The comments on a social platform can get really mean and racist. Look at the case of Michelle Carter, who egged on her boyfriend Conrad Roy III to take his life. But in her case, Carter did go to prison; however, some thought the prison term wasn't long enough. She spent only 15 months in jail.
Where is the concept of decency in some people?
I have experienced cyberbullying as an adult person, but at my age I'm strong enough to stand up to it and usually, once I respond cleverly to the person abusing me – they certainly back off! Because they are typically cowards behind a computer screen; they only have that and after that, they are nothing. Bullies come in groups, whether they are on the streets or through social media.
What we have to begin doing is the following: build a stronger generation to withstand bullies, start teaching in schools strategies against cyberbullying, prosecute serious bullying offenders and punish those who use insensitive, racist, cruel or vulgar language on any platform in China and abroad.
I strongly believe in the art of criticism, whether it is positive or negative. But to downright torture and hurt others who have no fault or have done nothing to you is just dehumanizing.
(The author is originally from New York City working as a teacher at the Shenzhen Guangming Foreign Languages School.)