Like Ally and many others, I too have seen the footage of the much publicised bullying incident in a Western Sydney High School (I won’t reproduce the facts in this article, but edited footage and an accompanying article can be seen here). There has been a strong reaction from the public, most of which has been in approval of the conduct of the older boy (the victim of the bullying). There are competing views of this incident, and it can be construed in many ways. Firstly though, one should analyse the incident itself and consider those that were actually involved.
To my mind, in respect of the older boy, violence is not the right response. On another view, doing what he did may well have been the most effective way to stop the bullying that he was enduring – it is unlikely that he will be bullied to that extent again, and he has found supporters to his plight. Speaking is a broader sense though, it is clear that none of it was to the good of anyone because the younger boy was seriously injured, and the older boy would not have learnt a legitimate way in which to deal with his issues – it simply won’t help him in during his adult years, nor would it help him again if he is bullied, because for each indiscretion, the tolerance of the authorities shrinks.
However, that does not mean he should be demonised as someone who has done the wrong thing and needs sanction. What must be understood is that he is a child. He is not yet mature, and does not have the benefit of properly formed social skills and coping mechanisms. For that reason, not too much should be said of him. He was subjected to a continuing campaign of bullying and he cracked. While his use of violence was wrong, he simply did not know any better. As to the younger boy, he is also in the wrong too, being culpable of bullying and provocation. However, he too is a child, and it is doubtful that he possessed the kind of maturity needed to properly appreciate the true extent of his actions.
This is not to suggest that anyone should be excused from complete accountability. Rather, it is to suggest that we should endeavour to understand these incidents so that those involved can learn from it, and so that incidents such as these can be prevented in the future.
As such, the greater concern is not the incident itself, because I understand that there are processes in place to deal with it. Rather the public reaction, which has been to condone and even encourage the kind of retributive violence used by the older boy is what troubles most. It is wrong, and a plain contradiction to think that the appropriate way to deal with bullying (or injustice) is to engage in the very conduct that you are denouncing. Violence should never be condoned by a veil of injustice – “eye for an eye” simply does not stand up to reason. It would set a dangerous precedent, because before long we could be living in a world where a motorist would be entitled to kick your car door for every time you forgot to indicate or cut them off in traffic, or where a swift strike to the cranium is ample consideration for when someone talks too loudly at the cinema .
The unfortunate reality though is that as a society, we generally take the selfish option. In this case, the selfish option is to promote the self serving agenda of retribution, because this is what satisfies us most – our own justice, and our own law. This approach has been played out many times over in the pages of history, and indeed in one way or another in our own lives, so we have all played some part in the development of this culture. This latest incident most pertinently shows how far away we are as a society from God – it is a classic example of how (in condoning retributive violence) we do things our own way rather than God’s way.
This why Jesus is such a blessing to the world, because in spite of its selfish nature, he has always been selfless, so that we can, by faith, remain with God although we have not lived by his ways. As such, we should be careful not to fall into the trap of selfishness, like so many have already done on this occasion. Rather, we should be clinging to the ways of the Cross to set ourselves apart from the culture of selfishness. So while it is appropriate to distance one’s self from the public reaction to this incident, it is equally important to consider if there are any other ways the we have been selfish in our lives too by doing what we want, instead of what God wants.