Anti-Semitism & Holocaust

Children, Bullying and The Consequences of Hate

by Sally M. Rogow - April 2003

Hate does not exist as an isolated phenomenon, it is nourished in the context of a society and social values. Moral indifference, societal and educational practices devoid of ethical and humanitarian concerns create environments where acts if hate take place. Expansionist totalitarian movements, whether it is Nazism, Soviet communism, fanatic religious groups or ordinary street gangs seek total domination and control. Many analogies can be made between ordinary bullies and totalitarian dictatorships. Caring, concern, and respect for human life need to be carefully nurtured and developed in our homes, our schools and in society in general.

There is much to be learned from those who defied the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. Rescuers uniformly had a strong sense of their own moral values and lived up to them. Rescuers were people of every social class and occupation, the only common denominator is that they were people who did the right thing…simply because it was the right thing to do. They had a strong sense of moral values and acted accordingly. They refused to be bystanders.

Analogies between bullying and international terrorist groups reveal important similarities. Social distancing from victims, and casting them as different or dangerous, is part and parcel of targeting victims of bullying and terrorist activities. The Nazis were successful because they corrupted the morality of an entire nation. With smoke and mirrors, they created the illusion that to obediently serve the state, they were serving a higher good. If a small group of political strongmen gains power over a population committed to social obedience, that group has little trouble winning control over social and political institutions. Authoritarian social structures are the weapons of bullies.

Bullies, victimizers, and perpetrators of hate crimes have more in common with one another than did the rescuers. Bullies seek power, their victims are seen as easy prey, they are the means to the bully's purpose, the achievement of power. Every year hundreds of Canadians are victims of hate crimes. Teenagers and young adults account for a significant proportion of the country's hate crimes…both as perpetrators and victims.

If children are taught what to think, rather than how to think, they are easily manipulated and more likely to do something to please someone else rather than do what is good for them or help someone else. The reality for thousands of Palestinian children is a life filled with fear, hatred, violence and bloodshed. Terrorist groups view children and youth as convenient recruits for suicide bombing missions. Arafat is condemning an entire generation to hatred and death. Societies, nations and international organizations who claim to value human rights and democracy must stand up and be heard. Children's rights must be protected by the United Nations as well on the home front.

Comprehensive hate prevention programs demand school environments where there is no tolerance of prejudice and hate motivated behavior. Conflict resolution, procedures for identifying and reporting incidents of racial and religious bigotry, and strategies for preventing such incidents from occurring need to be in place. As David Patterson pointed out in an excellent essay entitled “When Learned Men Murder,” knowledge cannot be divorced from ethical concerns. Respect for human life is the ultimate value. Radical student groups are engaged in bullying when they seek to dominate and misinform.

This needs to be addressed by society at large.

Coloroso. Barbara (2002) The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander: From Pre-school to High School-How Parents Can help Break the Cycle of Violence, NY: HarperCollins,
Patterson, D. (1996) When Learned Men Murder, Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

By Sally M. Rugow:

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