Wednesday, 2 September 2009


The mainstream media has made a meal of the recent sad incident in Mullumbimby.

This is, of course, hardly surprising. Every parent has concerns about the safety of the kids at school. This issue worries many, so reporting it will sell many newspapers and enhance TV ratings.

It is interesting to reflect on the causes for an apparent increase in this behaviour, although measuring the rates of this violence (both physical and verbal) is fraught. It’s certainly not new.

I was schooled in a series of small country towns, and don’t remember it being an issue, but at one point I spent a couple of weeks at a city school. There was bullying going on there, although it seemed to be almost accepted by the kids as normal. It was pretty full on (putting kids in rubbish bins, for example) and I thought of it as “ganging up”. I wasn’t targeted – I think they understood that as a kid from the bush I would have fought like a cornered cat, and that would have caused a problem.

Nevertheless, I remember being horrified by it, and have never forgotten. I must have been about ten at the time.

So whilst it’s not new, the behaviour itself has assumed a viciousness that I don’t recall seeing all those years ago.

Perhaps the MSM needs to look at the content of much of what it sells before they come over indignant about what they perceive as an epidemic. If there was a count of the number of episodes of cruelty and derision screened nightly in their programmes, it might reveal an incidence of bullying which would make some of the stories they publish about schools look like a Sunday school picnic.

You could start with the likes of “Big Brother”, and list numerous “reality” shows which make a feature of abuse, scorn and humiliation. They used to rate well – although this seems to be declining.

The media is either part of the problem or part of the solution.

The solution? The kids spend only 6 hours of 24 at school. They’re bringing this culture with them from home and community. Let's look at corporate activity, the way many of our political leaders behave, and how sport (particularly professional football of all codes) is promoted.

The fact that this kind of interpersonal behaviour is generally accepted in the wider community can be revealed by a quick read of a political blog. Those with dissenting opinions are generally abused and humiliated.

Maybe the problem lies outside the schools – and maybe that’s where we should be looking for a solution. I don’t see much bullying in the bush schools where I work. The culture of these schools and communities won’t abide it.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...