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No One Can Stop Bullying... Not Even Dalton McGuinty

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To be against bullying is one of those motherhood issues on which everyone agrees, but no one knows how to stop the problem.

The recent suicides of young people who were bullied has vaulted the issue into headlines, but apart from tut-tutting, no remedial solutions are forthcoming.

The Ontario government seems convinced that gays and sexual aspects provoke bullying. Baloney. That's only one aspect of bullying. The McGuinty gang has latched onto the sexual aspects because it is convenient and identifiable.

Despite the media, social and political attention directed at bullying, nothing has emerged that gives any indication that it can be stopped. Because bullying is human nature.

In dealing with bullying, it first should be acknowledged or admitted that bullying has always been with us, and will continue to be with us no matter what steps are taken to curb it. It's part of growing up. Most of us learn to deal with it.

In the old days, fathers used to lecture their sons along the lines that "all bullies are cowards," and the way to handle them is to stand up to them. There is some truth in this bromide, but not much.

It's generally true that bullies seek compliant or vulnerable victims, hence their penchant for picking on gay kids, or small kids, chubby kids, kids who don't fight back, or who have candy that the bully wants. That sort of thing,

Bullying usually occurs out of sight of teachers or parents.

The idea that all bullies are cowards tends to be a myth that kids who stand up to bullies sometimes learn to their regret.

It's fine to impress upon kids that bullying is unacceptable and shameful, but its also a reality that bullies often (maybe usually) don't think of themselves as bullies. They might call it teasing, or joking.

And bullying is not necessarily physical. Someone quick with cruel or hurtful words can be as much a bully as a playground thug. There are bullies in the workplace who would strenuously object if they were categorized as bullies, but that may be exactly what they are with those under their authority.

Right now, Premier McGuinty and others seem to be consulting people of the church for advice on controlling bullying. Why is this, one wonders? I'd argue that a minister, priest, rabbi or mullah has no formula to turn others from the path of bullying. In fact, the church itself can produced bullies of a different kind.

I suspect it shows the desperation, even helplessness, of trying to eliminate bullying. Again, in the past, the bullied kid was encouraged to take a Charles Atlas course on body-building, so as to kick sand in the bully's face. That theme still prevails in differing forms. And for some it works.

The hard truth is that although the hostility and repugnance for bullying is acute at the moment, interest is going to flag and another generation of bullies will surface -- gay/straight rainbow alliances that are the political flavour of the moment are not a solution.

Coping with bullies should hinge on parents and siblings more than on government legislation or religious leaders. Teachers are on the front lines, but sadly they often only recognize the syndrome when it is too late. And far too often, teachers themselves are bullies. But like all bullies, they don't recognize it in themselves.