Sunday, 9 February 2014

If You're Being Bullied, Change [Roll of 28 (9)]



A very long time ago, I was an exchange student in Nagoya. The night before a test, my neighbor had a big party, and through the paper-thin walls there wasn't much I didn't hear. I went over and asked them to keep it down. Then again. Then again with some yelling. The next morning I headed out to take my test and found my front door vandalized, the key-card slot jammed full of coins and generally a mess that I couldn't even close properly. After the test I went to student admin to report the damage and I used the word いじめ,  bullying. "Don't be silly", the staff member said, "you're a nice person. It can't be bullying."

Because bullying only happens to people who have done something to deserve it.

I understood immediately what she meant, because around the same time I had watched a TV show featuring a young man who had been bullied as a child for being fat. He had grown up to be a personal trainer and he was dedicating his life to combating bullying... by running free fitness programs to help overweight kids lose weight.

On setsubun Tiger was home sick, so we watched the pre-school kids' shows. One featured an oni (ogre) who was lonely but couldn't make friends because everyone was scared of him. The solution the show offered? Put a hat on to cover his horns, swap his club for a bunch of flowers and change his name to onii-san (big brother) not oni-san. "But", said the oni, "without horns I'm not an oni at all, and if I change my name I wont feel like myself." The response? "You want to make friends, don't you?"

The theme of Ursula Le Guin's Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea I found most intriguing is the victim-blaming. Therru is horribly disfigured after being gang-raped and thrown into a fire. The book notes that when people see her scarred face the first thing they ask is "what did she do?" and not "what was done to her?" Not surprisingly, this observation is absent from the Studio Ghibli film ゲド戦記, despite Therru being a prominent character (she is also considerably less disfigured in the film than in the novel).

When I told my co-workers about our intention to adopt, and began telling them how high the numbers of kids in orphanages are, one teacher chimed in with "and some of them are probably good kids, too."  During our interviews we were asked if we would agree to parent a child born out of wedlock, the child of someone with a criminal record, or a child resulting from rape. I assume those are the not-good kids. They should have chosen better parents.



My thoughts are with Michael Morones and his family.
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