This country is yet again deeply disturbed over another teen suicide. Rehtaeh Parsons, the most recent high profile teen suicide, has pushed Canadians into an emotional high gear and it should. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has weighted in on this stating as a father he is “sickened” by what he refers to as the alleged behaviour that led up to this needless death.
Well Mr. Harper what are you going to do about it? Every time I watch Question Period in the Parliament all I see is bullying and intimidation. If this is the role model our politicians want to demonstrate why shouldn’t kids think they can emulate this behaviour? Mr. Harper if you are really serious about tackling bullying head-on maybe you should focus on your own cabinet first. Have you ever watched the likes of Shelly Glover or other Conservative MP’s on Power and Politics? All they do is bully and denigrate anyone who stands up to them, just ask our former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page or, for that matter, any of numerous Commissioner or Ombudsman who never had their appointments renewed basically because they wouldn’t tow the line.
Now how many of you remember Jamie Kehoe, Mitchell Wilson or Jamie Hubley to name a few? These were all high profile Canadian teen suicides that have taken place is the last two years and every time there has been a huge public outcry, a lot of political rhetoric from our elected officials and after a limited time period it is off the public/political radar. It a lot like the States with mass shootings, high profile for a limited time and then it falls off the radar. I heard the same rhetoric from the same group of politicians following all three of the above deaths and yet here we are again.
IMHO this is due in part because the reaction is strictly from an emotional point of view. In my many years as an advocate the emotional approach doesn’t seem to hold water for very long. I have become use to telling the clients I deal with to be as emotional as they want, they need to do that but to be effective as their advocate I need to use an intellectual approach. I need to understand the policies and procedures that are being used so we can come to a successful resolution.
My experience has been that the emotional approach will get you some sympathy from a service provider but has a very slim chance of having a decision overturned. But when you can quote their policy and demonstrate how this policy could be interpreted differently, an interpretation that will provide a better outcome for the individual you will be more successful as an advocate.
So when it comes to the subject of bullying, not a new concept in our community, we need thinking and solutions that come from a position of intellect. When you are basing your argument on intellect you are challenging an ideology but when your argument is build on emotion the outrage ends when the grief is over. Any bureaucrat or people in positions of power know they just have to wait this out then it will disappear again.
Understanding this will contribute to success. An approach based on intellect may be much more challenging but will result in a more committed outcome. The emotional approach will produce an outcome but one that tends to have a far less impactful outcome. Intellect demands buy-in, emotions demand a response and there is a lot of difference between those two outcomes.
The “buy-in” using the emotional argument is far more tenuous. We see this type of approach with major fund raising events regularly. We get bombarded with cute poster children and continual reminders to get your lucky ticket today for that fabulous 4000 square foot house located where ever. I have yet to see one of these houses that is actually wheelchair accessible so I do have to ask myself how much buy-in this organization has to the well being of the child versus the funds to buy a piece of equipment.
This same thought process is keeping us as a society from making any forward movement on the subject of bullying. I believe the most effective approach to dealing with bullying is intellectual, should be directed by a parent figure with positive behaviour exhibited by high profile role models. We don’t need politicians and other public figures exhibiting bullying behaviour’s every time we see them in a press conference or the news. If Prime Minister Harper is truly interested in combatting bullying then he better clean his own political house because kids continue to die!
Just one man’s opinion.