As reported by Rappler, a video of a bullying incident at a prominent school in the Philippines went viral on Thursday. The aggressor forced a few of his peers to choose between getting beaten up and preserving their dignity, then chose to physically assault one of the boys. A short version of this disturbing story would be to say that there have been a lot of calls on social media for the school to take decisive action against the apparent bully, and have him expelled from the institution. But this incident hit very close to home for this writer in particular, not just because I once attended an all-boys’ school and dealt with bullying well into young adulthood. On a broader scale, the incident reveals the extent to which the cultures of toxic masculinity and “affluenza” remain pervasive on campuses around the world, especially in all-male institutions.
Based on the comments from social media users on the Ateneo de Manila Junior High School’s official statement on the matter, via Facebook, the viral bullying incident was not the first time in which the boy in the video — as well as his older brother — allegedly took liberties with their peers, by virtue of their being martial arts experts. It has also been alleged that the boys are sons of a well-connected family, which is why many social media users have accused the school of frequently letting them get away with a slap on the wrist — to say little of the school administration’s curious decision not to mention the “b” word — bullying — in their official statement.
As a backgrounder on the school where the bullying incident took place, the Ateneo, as it’s often referred to for short, was an all-male institution in elementary and high school up until the 2016-17 academic year — when the school began accepting girls for its senior high school (Grades 11 and 12) program. The Ateneo said in a statement in 2015, one announcing the above decision, that it plans to keep its elementary and junior high schools exclusive for boys. And with that said, we shall make no further reference to the school, nor to the alleged bully in the video, but rather focus on the broader issues at hand.
As Psychology Today pointed out, the “dumb jock” bully archetype is getting phased out these days in favor of smarter, more socially manipulative bullies. However, there will always be that kid who probably watches too much UFC for his own good, and thinks that he could have his way with other children because he knows mixed martial arts — or any form of martial arts, for that matter. As much as I am a fan of the UFC, I find it sad that numerous young people simply emulate the “dudebro” swagger of many an MMA fighter instead of actually putting their martial arts training to good, and honorable, use.
Such is often how life is in all-male educational institutions. And as long as school officials look the other way when a star athlete is wailing on smaller or weaker boys — just because they want to protect the school’s name, or that of the athlete — these bullies will continue their reign of terror. Worse, ignoring these shenanigans could allow older, athletically-superior bullies to influence younger students who think that picking on the weak is the best way to survive in such an environment, thus continuing the vicious cycle of aggressive, violent, “alpha males” on campus.
In addition to how star athletes remain largely protected by school officials, it’s also very easy for spoiled kids — who have never heard of the concept of “tough love” — to reign supreme in their respective schools. That’s what brings us to the other toxic culture I referred to earlier — affluenza. All too often, the scions of the rich, famous, and well-connected get away almost, if not completely, scot-free. More often than not, they know that they will escape punishment for their misdeeds. That’s what allows them to act with little to no remorse for their actions, ultimately growing up to become successful adults who command a lot of respect in their fields, but remain just as abusive as they were back when they were in school.
Tough love is probably the most effective tool to ensure that a child doesn’t run wild in school and pick on their peers. Earlier this month, the Inquisitr covered the case of an Ohio man who forced his daughter to take the long walk to and from school — and filmed her doing so — because she was accused multiple times of bullying other children. Such methods of tough love may be a bit too extreme, but the thought is still there.
Bullying, especially in all-male (though also in all-female) schools, is still as much of a problem as it was in previous generations. There’s a good chance it won’t ever go away, but there’s always something people can do to improve the root causes of the problem. And when I say people, I mean school officials who mollycoddle these troublesome individuals just because they’re more athletically gifted, smarter, and/or richer than their peers. Also complicit are parents who have yet to teach their children the meaning of the word “no” — or the concept of respecting, rather than one-upping, one’s peers, regardless of their background.