Bullying and Personal Ethics

How do you want
to be treated?
This post is in response to the video of a group of middle school students bullying and taunting a school bus monitor in Greece NY.  It’s a very difficult video to watch. This post isn’t about what can be done to stop such things from happening. (That post is here). This post is about what this incident tells us about personal ethics.

To be ethical, you must first recognize that the people you interact with are real people. The reason why the rest of us got so upset is because she’s a grandma and a widow and her son killed himself and the kids taunting her didn’t take any of that into account. She didn’t deserve to be treated that way. No one does.

It is clear from the video and from conversations with one of the dads, the kids, who are 13 – 15, weren’t thinking about what they were doing. They were just one upping each other and it was a game to them. Of course they weren’t thinking about the impact they were having on Ms. Klein (the bus monitor). They were thinking about themselves and how to fit in with their peers. To them, Ms. Klein wasn’t really human. As a result, they never considered the impact they were having on their target.

All too often we go through life ignoring the reality of the people around us. We get so wrapped up in our own problems that we don’t consider that other people might have problems of their own. And that is why we all got so upset at the behavior of those kids on that bus. They didn’t take into account the reality of Ms. Klein’s life.

The secret to ethics isn’t about following a set of rules. It goes much deeper than that. It is about truly understanding the golden rule. When you take the time to think about how you want to be treated by others, as a real human being worthy of respect and dignity, you realize that you need to treat others with respect as well. Everyone is struggling with something. When you realize that, the thought of tormenting another person becomes unthinkably cruel.

Image: "School Bus" by Arvind Balaraman FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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