Stopping The Bully

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She is 81. Like some actresses, she has had plastic surgery. Last year, she was honoured at the Cannes Film Festival where she was greeted with a standing ovation. On March 2 this year, she presented an award at the Oscars with the actor of the moment, Matthew Mcconaughey. She fasted for three days to look her best. Just before the award presentation, she took a relaxation pill. The result on stage was not good. Her speech was halting. But nothing could have prepared her for the mockery. She would be too embarrassed to leave her house after becoming the butt of online ridicule and jokes about her slow speech and rigid appearance. Real estate tycoon Donald Trump tweeted that she should “sue her plastic surgeon”. This tweet went viral. Last week, she decided to “address the elephant in the room” publicly. She is veteran actress Kim Novak, best know for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’.

The elephant in the room maybe her admission of what she has done to her face. The bigger elephant however is the need to stand up to the cruelty. Standing up to the bullies of the world. In the same Oscar show, Ellen DeGeneres was surprisingly cruel to Liza Minnelli, 68, pretending to mistake her for a male impersonator; to June Squibb, 84, and Bruce Dern, 77, raising her voice deliberately as they might be hard of hearing. All these artistes have had dazzling careers. They came all dressed up to be honoured as an Oscar nominee. Only to be humiliated. Some think they should be sporty about such jokes. Should they be? A bully can come in the form of the kindest looking host Ellen, or the nastiest tycoon Donald. Just this month, CABCY, Singapore’s Coalition Against Bully for Children and Youth, reported a shocking fact that one in eight children between age 7 and 16 are bullied on a weekly basis.

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In 2012, Microsoft released results of a worldwide survey naming Singapore as one of the top-ranked countries where cyber-bulling is most pervasive. Last month, Singapore outlawed cyber-bullying as part of a new ‘Protection From Harassment Act’. The offence now carries a punishment comparable to stalking and sexual harassment. Jolene Tan, who returned to Singapore after 12 years away, just published her first novel, ‘A Certain Exposure’, inspired by real-life student violence, which explores how victims of bullies and their loved ones are affected. As a scrawny student, I was bullied. As a newly commissioned officer in the army, I went through the ‘orientation’ by senior officers. What is sad, is our acceptance of the cruelty as a rite of passage, and our silence when we saw others going through the horror. Like Jolene, I have never really forgiven myself for condoning and for not speaking up.

When there is cruelty to anyone who is powerless to fight back, there is bullying. It takes awareness and courage to break any pattern of bullying in homes, schools and work places. Bravery against bullying is reinforced when a person does not feel alone. CABCY has published an animated film that depicts a bullied child who is too afraid to talk about the bullying because she thinks it could become worse. “If I just keep quiet maybe it will go away.” the child says. In the video, bullies throw things at the child, steal her lunch and call her names. “Is it my fault?” the child asks. Part of a campaign called ‘Share It To End It’, the film has been shared on Facebook more than 30,000 times since it was first launched two weeks ago. It shortens by a millisecond each time it is shared and will disappear after it is circulated 100,000 times. A powerful metaphor for how we can end bullying by sharing experiences and talking about it.

Screen shot 2014-04-23 at AM 08.49.26

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