Recent days have provided dramatic and disturbing reports of substantial bullying of certain students in a school district across the Hudson that includes students in Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster counties.
Some years ago I served as a professional community planning consultant in each of these three counties, as well as Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess Counties, plus elsewhere in the Northeast, Middle Atlantic, Middle West, and abroad.
In this case the widespread “bullying” involved scores of reported instances of regrettable and outrageous anti-Semitic slurs, physical attacks, and wide-spread Swastika graffiti on walls, desks, lockers and elsewhere in the rural Pine Bush School District, west of Newburgh. Victims seldom complained, but recently the problem has grown, and some parents have instituted a law suit, including thousands of pages of evidence to restrain such widespread bullying that has driven some Jewish students out of the local schools.
The current issue in Pine Bush may be extreme, but some efforts by school official to restrain it is clearly inadequate. And much of it is considered by local folks to be merely childhood and teen-age pranks, “innocent mischief” or brought on by the victims themselves. Some local adults even suggest that if the children and their parents come to feel they are not wanted in “our” town, they are right. However it is clear that the problem is widespread; reported across the country.
Other groups are sometimes also targeted. We can all recall such antagonisms against one group or another, the “others,” if Oriental, Latin American, Eastern European, and earlier: Mormons, Catholics, Irish, Southern European Greeks and Italians. During times of economic threat, as now, such inclinations grow.
In fact we all have nominal or serious biases against those who are convenient targets. I recall decades ago meeting in Paris and in London a prominent British psychiatrist, Doctor Spencer Patterson, a professional associate of my mother, who described for me his theory of a universal Kill Drive. He described that humans, as other species, have always had a protective survival instinct that tends in the extreme to suggest we should kill all others all the time, as all might possibly be, at some level, a threat to us. Fortunately for all, only the criminally insane allow such instincts to do serious harm to others. [As we recall this month on the fiftieth anniversary of the historic case of President Jack Kennedy’s assassination.] But Patterson quickly added that we all also have a balancing Love Drive, that inclines us to love all, all of the time [or perhaps some of the time?]
In any event, it is clear that the usual lecturing at the children, in this case directed at students with ages of seven to seventeen, is simply inadequate. As some have noted, such attitudes and behaviors do not erupt out of the young without substantial family examples and at least vague inclinations. Perhaps an American capitalist solution for such religious hate, with its regrettable, hurtful, flagrant, and malignant expressions of their Kill Drive, might be reduced by fines on the parents for each swastika or other such racist or religious hate expressions, of $100 or if necessary $1,000. Even the current German society has learned that it cannot tolerate Neo-Nazi expressions by those who still need serious incentives to favor their Love Drive over their Kill Drive.
In the mean time we might finally learn, in part from the cataclysmic typhoon in the Philippines, that the survival of the world’s fish as well as the survival of the rest of us, we must slow down our self-destructive practices of carbon based global warming that threatens our food production, if it is not already too late.
The Philippine Typhoon, apparently the worst ever, was the result of our global warming of the world’s oceans. The storms are growing as the warmed oceans feed their disastrous size and destructiveness. I am perhaps more sensitive to this, as years ago I was trained at the Navy Postgraduate Engineering School in Monterey, California, where most astronauts were trained, in order to serve years as an Aerological Officer to handle typhoon forecasting as well as sea and flight forecasting from the Navy base on Manila Bay, across from Corregidor Island.
Bob Bogen served as comprehensive long-range facilities planning director for the New York Metropolitan Regional Planning Commission; as planning director for the New England Regional Commission; as a major United Nations official in Pakistan; Board Chairman of the Communications Coordinating Committee for the United Nations; and Principal Representative of Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility to the United Nations.