The problem with Rudolph or Not the Nicest post-Christmas thoughts

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Every year, we all have that discussion, online and in person.

About Rudolph. About the way it’s a metaphor for how people only are nice to someone else when they want something, how most of society engages in making sure that those who are different are socially punished, and how adults in authority enable bullying, or at least turn a blind eye to it.

 

And nothing seems to change. For all the rhetoric and workplace/school training. We haven’t gotten the real message.

Time and time again, the people who are bullied are made out to be the problem.

 

In schools and workplaces all over the world, the bullied child/adult is disbelieved and considered the instigator, and/or the responsibility for managing the situation is laid on them:

“Just walk away!”

“Stand up for yourself!”

“Try to make friends with them!”

“Tell an adult!”

That last one? That’s the kicker, because the instant response of almost every adult authority is simply “What did you do to make them mad at you?”

The bullied child in the schoolyard or adult in the workplace is NEVER believed when they do tell. Double that statement if the bullied person is female.

Until something happens – something that cannot be ignored.

Something dire.

If that something is that the person being bullied does finally retaliate in kind, they are the ones who are punished.

If that something is self-harm or suicide, the handwringing, the pearl-clutching, and the victim-blaming begins.

“Why didn’t they TELL someone?”

I do not believe, having watched so many children and adults go through this, that anything has changed at all, except cosmetically. We’ve altered the narrative so that watching a video or attending a seminar means the problem is solved.

Back-pats and self-justifications all round.

And that’s why, despite all those videos and workshops and training seminars, we still sit down and weep sentimentally as a big fat guy in charge of a large organization steadfastly ignores the isolation and shaming and bullying of a slightly-different reindeer, until they all need those unique differences to perform their own roles in life – as if it showed what great, magnanimous folks we all are.

That’s why the Rudolph story is still acceptable.

And that’s why, for many people, Christmas kind of sucks.

 

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