The story of Phoebe Prince, the Massachussetts 15 year-old immigrant from Ireland who was bullied and harassed to the extent that she took her life is heart-breakingly sad. The girls who drove her to suicide exhibited a phenomenon common enough to have been given a name, "mean girls," apparently after a movie by that title which was also about girls who behave abominably.
There's been a lot of talk about the culpability of the school officials in Prince's death, but the question we might better ponder is why girls behave like this in the first place? What kind of human beings would hound a girl to her death and then continue to mock her on Facebook afterward? Are packs of girl's pushing other girls to total desperation now a normal part of an already fetid and effete culture? Why were these girls so cruel, why did they have so little empathy, so little compassion or kindness in their hearts?
Of course it's human nature to be cruel and resentful of outsiders. Compassion and acceptance of others have to be taught. These virtues have to be instilled in our children as a duty, and a culture that has abandoned the basis for moral duty, i.e. a Christian understanding of the world, is generally going to do a poor job of teaching that we have any such obligations to others.
Courtesy, forgiveness, selflessness, generosity and magnanimity in giving the benefit of the doubt all require a conviction that this is the proper way to conduct oneself, but if someone asks the question why one should comport oneself this way our post-Christian culture can give them no answer other than to say that it's nice to do so. In other words, we should be nice, we try to convince our children, because it's nice. That's going to fail to persuade a lot of young people, but it's the best we can do without invoking socially proscribed religious sanctions.
Consequently, our young people absorb their ethics from their cultural role models, and these are often, though not always, foul-mouthed, slutty, selfish, materialistic and petty. Many young girls learn at an early age that the most important thing in life is to look good and be popular and the best way to be popular is to be hard, loose, and hot. Failing that, the best way to consolidate one's status in the social hierarchy is to display power over another, and the best way to do that is by showing that you can hurt them. Young women weaned on this Darwinian view of what life's all about have little warmth in their hearts and little room for compassion in their souls.
As tragic and disgusting as the behavior of the culprits in Massachussetts was, no one should be surprised by it. Simply look at how too many of their role models behave, look at who and what the entertainment media incessantly promote, consider that many kids grow up with no real moral instruction and no foundation for whatever instruction they do get, and the wonder is that more girls aren't as cruel and repellent as the South Hadley High School nine.RLC