Put a lid on it!

Bullying has reached epidemic proportions, particularly via social media, and it’s time we put a stop to it. It’s not just kids being mean to other kids. Adults are weighing in with gusto against anyone who dares to think, act, look, or believe differently. I can’t help thinking that being vicious, vitriolic and just plain nasty, is gearing up to be the next Olympic sport. What happened to the art of sensible, reasoned debate?

For example: a local brewing company brought out a special, one-off, range of labels to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bible Society. A nice gesture. Then, the Society posted on the internet a discussion between a pro-gay marriage supporter and an anti-gay marriage supporter. It was calm, polite and civilized. The trolls took offence at polite conversation and began a campaign of hatred against the (non-homophobic) brewing company, urging everyone to stop buying their product. The language used was pure bile. It was extraordinary…or so I thought.

Example two: an immigrant from the Sudan, still learning the cultural nuances of being Australian, used the phrase “Lest we forget”, to highlight the plight of people in war-torn countries today. She obviously thought she was being clever using a topical reference (it being Anzac Day). Within a day of posting her statement, someone told her that she might be construed as being offensive to the Australian soldiers who had died in conflict, with whom the phrase “Lest we forget” is associated. She apologised and removed the post. You’d think that’d be the end of that, but no. She was pilloried, mocked, abused, there were calls for her to lose her job and some even went so far as to suggest she “go back where she came from”. The spewing out of hatred continued for well over a week. Did she intend to offend our diggers? No. Did we offend her? Yes.

I see it in political posts, too. Now, do I think you might have rocks in your head if you don’t vote the way I do? Possibly. Do I need to say that, in as many colourful ways as possible? No. Two reasons why: i) you have the right to vote however you want and ii) there may be a (slight) chance that I am wrong…maybe.

I see no benefit in swearing at those who disagree with me. I see no benefit in posting rude, offensive and, at times, pornographic pictures to mock people. If we just stand along the line drawn in the sand, our chins out and our fists clenched, and just yell at each other, what does that actually achieve apart from high blood pressure and a potential stroke?

For goodness sake, people, pull your heads in! Given that not everyone is capable of it, let’s try anyway to resurrect the art of civilized debate. Let’s try to discuss calmly, listening to the other person and trying to understand their point of view. Let’s try to be polite. Let’s try to find the good in people, rather than delighting in destroying their lives.

Get a grip; grow up; play nice.

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