Monday, March 13, 2006

Seeing Red

I was going to write about something else entirely, but I encountered something else today while I was reading articles on the net.

I'm going to talk about bullying.

This is nothing new. Read the papers and a story about some kid getting pummelled will surface every now and then. Sometimes it gets bad enough, particularly if the victim lands in hospital or God-forbid, is killed.

And of course, we'll get our usual knee-jerk reactions from everyone and etc and so on and so forth. Sometimes, something good does happen, like when the Sultan of Pahang got pissed enough to go to a prestigious boarding school to confront the school staff and the bullies themselves. NST carried a transcript of part of that confrontation and I am not ashamed to admit that I was so pleased to see the bullies and the school staff that tried to poo-poo the situation shit in their pants trying to explain themselves to the Sultan.

God, I would've paid money to watch that.

Before I go on, I would like to say that this topic is always very difficult for me to write about. I find it extremely difficult to write and think rationally when it comes to schoolyard bullying. I am a peacable, non-confrontational person who doesn't lose his temper easily EXCEPT when I think about bullying. It's a good thing I don't work in the Education Department. It's a good thing it's not up to me to deal with bullies. If it were, I would recommend summary executions, torture, the use of gibbets, impalement, public lashings etc.

See, not being rational there. And I feel that I don't need to in this case.

You see, I was a victim. I was picked on in school. For years and years. But that's quite obvious by now isn't it?

Anyway, I would like to share a really good website about bullying that I discovered. And not only bullying in school, but in general, including bullying in the work place. Please visit BullyOnLine. I've been reading it for a while and it's great.

Particularly interesting are sections on bullying myths and the List of Bullycide cases. The List has names of children who have committed suicide, attempted suicide or have been killed by bullies. I thought I'd mention that fact just in case people still think that schoolyard bullying is no big deal.

In truth, in this country, a lot of people still think of it as a small matter. On the surface, it looks like it's just an occasional thing.

Yes it is. Occasionally, kids who get bullied get permanent injuries. Or die. That happens occasionally.

How about the kids that are being murdered slowly during every school day?

Oh come on, people say. I mean it's normal, right? It's a right of passage, people say. It'll be over when the kids grow up, people say. I mean some kids grow up just fine, even after getting bullied.

Some. For the other "some", it never ends. They never recover totally. They can't be "normal" and just shrug it off. Sometimes, the scars are permanent and obvious.

Since this is my blog, I feel that it's not inappropriate to use myself as an example.

There's two things about me that I might want to describe as being "abnormal" First, I suffered from chronic depression and had severely low self-esteem. Especially when I was younger. I'm a lot better now, but I'm not exactly the carefree extrovert that I'd want to be. Unlike say, my brothers for instance.

There are probably many contributing factors but I blame part of this on constant bullying while I was in primary and lower secondary school.

Now, it's a known fact that getting picked on is bad for a child's self-esteem. Especially if the child gets no help. There's the name calling. And the taunting. And no need to mention the pranks, the set ups, the practical jokes. I tell you, the sound of your entire class laughing at you stays with you forever man. And this happened more than once.

Can't be good for a child's self-worth. The more people involved, the worse it is. I tell you, there were a lot of people involved. In fact, I can see their faces right now. And one of the bastards owe me a hundred bucks. I hope he's dead.

Secondly, I have a thing against authority figures. Doesn't matter who. Parents, teachers, bosses at work, politicians, cops, etc.

My feelings for authority figures range from mild suspicion to disdain to outright hostility and hatred (r.e. my boss at my former job in UNIMAS)

Why is that?

Well, I think that in some ways I blame authority figures for not "helping" me when I needed them. I blame them even more when I remember those times my teachers accused me of being a crybaby, or openly supported a bully even though they knew what was going on. There are more incidences of this "betrayal" by authority figures, like times when some teachers at school hinted that maybe it was me and not the other kids who picked on me that was in the wrong, that somehow I "incited" or encouraged the bullying. Especially if the bullying student is a teacher's pet.

Well, if being short, stuttery and bespectacled can be considered as incitement, I guess it was my fault then.

While I try to understand that they probably meant no malice at the time, it's hard to forgive things like that.

Therefore, until today, I still have the hardest time believing that people in positions of power have the interest of other people in mind when discharging their duties. I know they are good people out there, I've met them. But still, I have this nagging cynical feeling in the back of my head that most people who end up in high places and have authority are going to use their advantage to screw everyone over. That somehow, people who are supposed to help you won't help you, especially when it's "inconvenient".

Maybe I'm being silly and paranoid here. But there you go, that's the truth.

So, bullying is a bigger deal than people make it out to be.

Personally, I don't think people take bullying seriously enough. Schools are still more obsessed with public exams records and inter-school sports meets. Many schools still care more about the school's rep than student welfare. That's the root of another problem, that's why some bullying cases get covered up.

If anyone remember some of the news articles about bully victims here, they'd also remember accounts of school staff scrambling to cover it up and to keep things quiet.

So much for our caring society eh?

In the worse case scenario, what can the bully victim do? What happens when there is NO ONE who is willing to help?

I can think of two ways to handle this.

One, the papers. If someone is getting bullied and the school does absolutely nothing, get the papers involved. Or better yet, TV. And police. Better yet, all of them. If a school does nothing or if the school wants to keep it hush hush, it's their reputation that they are worried about.

If this happens and since the school doesn't care about the bully victim, why should he/she care about the school's reputation? Put it to the sword. Word will get out, and someone will do something for sure. Probably someone very high up.

Two, retaliation. While it's generally politically incorrect to advocate violent retribution, sometimes there's no other option, you know?

It's dangerous and can get you in trouble, but sometimes, you have no other choice. And choosing to put up with being beaten down all the time isn't a very good choice.

If you are getting bullied and there is no other way out, fight back. Screw consequences. Whatever happens next, at least you did something. But remember, fighting back should be the Final Solution. Last resort.

Sometimes when I think about it, I wish I did fight back. It might not have solved any problems, but at least I would've made a stand.

Anyway, that is my story today. Bullying isn't just child's play. It's more serious than that. In fact, by definition...

... bullying is terrorism. Nothing less.

Take it seriously.

PS. One more important read, the profile of the serial bully. Sound like anyone you know?

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