I just returned from Japan. It’s my old stomping ground actually as several years ago I taught English and lived on the island of Kyushu. On this trip, my family members and I travelled through to Penticton’s Sister City Ikeda and experienced true Japanese hospitality.
It was truly a wonderful experience.
When we left we went to Kobe, which is very near Kyoto, in the central part of the country. It was there that we learned of a horrible attack on an anime studio that killed several workers. This news shook the industry, the fans, and the country as a whole. It reminded me of the award-winning Japanese anime, A Silent Voice, that I’d watched a couple of years before with my son.
Since school will be starting soon I thought this might be a good time to discuss it as the main theme of the film is bullying. The film shares a unique experience. Told from the point-of-view of the bully it provides a perspective not often considered. The film is targeted towards older children.
The opening scene shows the main character Shoya, now a high school student, about to commit suicide after suffering years of depression, anxiety, and monumental guilt over his bullying of a deaf girl while they were in elementary school.
As a young boy, Shoya had taken the girls hearing aides and thrown them in the river. His nasty attitude is fueled by the other students who egg him on and encourage his intimidating and destructive behaviour.
This struck a chord with me because we often forget (or ignore) that the one doing the attacking of the innocent is usually not acting alone. In the movie, even the teacher is aggressive as he pounds the wall violently and demands answers as he stares directly at the young trouble-maker. What message does that send to kids when a teacher acts that way?
After the confrontation, Shoya’s friends fade away, deny any involvement, and stay silent, thus allowing him to take all the blame. He becomes a social outcast and is shunned.
As he grows up, Shoya begins to understand and empathize with his victim and wants to make amends. It’s a brilliant story. I won’t spoil the rest for you in case you want to watch it.
The movie puts a different spin on to the bullying problem and reminds us that everyone, no matter how they’re involved, are affected one way or another.
Bullying has been defined, redefined, and even become a national movement with Pink Shirt Day but the question remains, has it made any difference?
In today’s world, some want to dominate, dictate, or belittle others. Is it human nature? A matter of maturity? Is it a group mentality? Are (or were) you part of it?
Remind your kids that they don’t even have to be the direct target of bullying to be negatively affected. Whether a witness, a silent participant, or an active aggressor it takes its toll.
So what are the answers? Are we supposed to just cross our fingers and hope it doesn’t happen?
Everyone needs to have a voice and be comfortable enough to use it. In the movie, the bystanders didn’t see themselves as being involved. These are the things we need to teach the kids and remind them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
The words bully and bullying are redundant and seemingly irrelevant as it continues daily. Everyone and nobody can be labeled the bully depending on who you ask.
Talk openly with your kids before school about their part in the bullying and encourage them to always speak up loud and clear.
First published by Black Press August 16, 2019