#SOL19: In Retrospect

I was ecstatic.

When reporting on my ancestry, I said I was from Czechoslovakia.  Sometimes I spelled it – showing off just a bit because it was a six syllable word.  But most of the time, I just wanted to beat classmates to it and tell my version first. I was in third grade.

My heritage. Mom’s side and Dad’s side. Bohemian. Czech. Others. But probably 75% Czech.

My goal:  To be proactive.  I don’t remember if anyone in my third grade world knew where Bohemia was and ever mentioned it to me.  But my goal was to end it before it began.

“My family is from Czechoslovakia.”

 

Why did it matter?

The joke of the day then was always about “Bohemians.” It was the 60’s. More recent iterations have been “dumb blonde jokes,” “midgets” or ethnic variations.”  (We were short on entertainment as tv watching was rationed and phones still had party lines.)

Jokes.

Just jokes.

A common one was: “How many Bohemians does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

Iterations readily found online include:

How many Bohemians does it take to change a light-bulb? Five. One who does it and four who would chat about that the old one was much better.

How many deputies of Kénikrát (Bohemian parliament) does it take to change a light-bulb? Absolute majority. The opposition thus could not propose a bill to screw it in the other direction.

How many Bohemian cops does it take to change a light-bulb? Eleven. One stays on a table, four move around the table, next four move in an opposite direction to prevent nausea of the first four, one checks the service box, if the current is on, and commands it all.

How many Bohemian clerks does it take to change a light-bulb? Five. One writes an application form to screw off the old bulb, the second stamps it, the third writes an application form to screw a new one in, the fourth stamps this and the fifth, after few hours of argumentation if there are correct stamps, would exchange it. (Retrieved from IllBethisad wiki – link)

How bad was it?

So many terms come in varying shades. How do we navigate in these times without getting carried away? These definitions from Intermountain Health Care seem to make sense to me.  

rude – inadvertently saying or doing something hurtful

mean – purposefully saying or doing something that hurts someone once or twice

bullying – intentionally aggressive over time and often involving an imbalance of power

So the intentionality matters.  Multiple events over time matters. The perceptions of the “wronged individual” matter.  It’s possible that rudeness could develop into meanness over time and as specific behaviors became habituated.  Yet I don’t know if one could become a bully without being aware of the hurt they were causing.

Was it rude?  mean?  a case of bullying? 

With the passage of time, it’s hard to say. 

I still have that gnawing, churning feeling in my stomach when I hear jokes that demean any group of people… even by profession!

What I do know is that we must be more aware.

It’s not okay to let incidents pass by. It may be the first instance that I’ve heard that comment, but what if it has been long standing behavior by the speaker? 

How do you differentiate between “rude, mean, and bullying”?




Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

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6 responses

  1. Getting a laugh at the expense of someone else has , unfortunately, been around for ages – blonde jokes, Polish jokes, Irish jokes, etc. Have we become so immune to them that we don’t see the underlying factor in these jokes? True that not all of them are said to hurt someone but even if one person is offended it is mean bordering on bullying.

    1. So many layers of thinking here but I agree, it has never been okay. Unfortunately it continues quite loudly and frequently!

  2. I am puzzled by the constant flow in our culture of jokes at other people’s expense. My pet peeve is the put-down humor that I see on TV and that I think influences kids to do the same thing. Whether the condescending remark is directed toward a nation or an individual, the underlying message is “we are better than you are.” I really dislike it.

    1. Oh, I so agree. Sarcasm used this way as well. Considering the effect that words have on others is time well spent. I never did understand the hallway trash talk at school by “best friends” as that was not “friendly” conversation in my mind!

  3. You have really brought up some good food for thought. When is it malicious and when is it just funny? Sometimes even the group being marginalized by the joke participates in the retelling. It’s good to take a long look at purpose and objective.

    1. So closely related. And at what point are some students happy to be included (and not excluded). Similar to adults and sarcasm . . . Where does one draw a line?

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