Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Whoopi Goldberg Takes on the Bullies

My brother gifted me a copy of Whoopi Goldberg’s book Is It Just Me?, which I probably wouldn’t have bought in a million years, because ever since Goldberg's blackface/Ted Danson thing and her stint on "The View," I just haven’t been much of a fan.

But, back in the early days I was very much a fan, and I remember watching a televised viewing of Goldberg’s one-woman show and being absolutely spellbound by her obvious talent.

So, I was glad to receive the book, thinking it would give me a chance to rediscover the gifts of this woman anew.

Well, the first thing I’ll say is that the book reads like it’s been ghostwritten. However, I want to state in caps that I HAVE NO IDEA IF IT ACTUALLY WAS. But the writing is a little stilted, and all I can say is if the book was ghostwritten I think I could have done a better job. Seriously. For example, in the chapter titled “Road Rude” Goldberg writes:

“Do you think that when you get inside your car and close the door you become magically invisible?”

And I'd have written:

“Getting inside your car and closing the car doesn’t make you invisible, as though by magic or something.”

So next time, Whoopi, call me. That’s all I’m saying.

The second thing I’ll say is, despite the stilted language, I’m enjoying the book. It’s a relatively quick read, and Whoopi (or somebody) talks about stuff I like reading about.

For example, there’s a chapter on bullies, and if you know anything about me at all, you know that I have taken a vow to not rest until this problem is greeted with the seriousness it deserves. Whether we’re talking school yard bullying or workplace bullying or road rage, or what the hell—I won’t shut up until everybody agrees it’s real, it sucks, and we need solutions.

So, I was curious to know Goldberg’s opinion of this issue, and I wasn’t disappointed. Goldberg (or whoever) writes:

“It’s an exercise in power, but it’s also meant to disintegrate someone’s Self. It’s meant to take away their sense of who they are.”

Now, I don’t agree with Goldberg’s reason, as she goes on to say—

“Because they’re [the target] not as strong, or as big, or as witty.”

And that doesn’t square with my experience, at least not in the workplace. Often the targets are stronger. If bullies had to endure the abuse they heap on others, they’d be crying like a little girl, and often when they do get a taste of their own medicine, that’s what they do—run and cry to whoever in the organization will listen.

And I’ve found that targets are often more witty, or more competent, or more whatever, and the bullies are jealous.

However, I will say this about targets. Generally, they don’t like conflict. So they’ll suck up stuff and try and make the best of it. If you want to characterize that as “less strong” then, okay.

But that aside, I like what Goldberg (or whoever) is saying.

She gets that we’re not talking “self-esteem,” here. We’re talking sense of self. Self-esteem is superficial in some respects. Sense of self gets at who we are as human beings, and bullies do their damnedest to mess with that. Not cool.

So, I’m going to keep talking about this every chance I get, and I hope that Goldberg (or whoever) does the same.

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