Bullies. They come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. They are around us all. As we continue to collect data from our everyday interactions, we take on many roles each day. We find ourselves playing the parts of the victim, hero, the coward, braggart, soldier, the defeated, gossip, the friend, enemy, the achiever, the procrastinator, lover, destroyer and many more almost daily. And yes, we even find ourselves playing the part of the bully. I am not saying we are all bullies, but I believe we all have the potential to become bullies and we also have the potential to do something about it.
Let’s face it, no one likes being bullied. Having been abused throughout my childhood and into my adulthood, I have experienced a wide array of bullies – from the child bullies, to adult abusers and teenage power seekers. As an adult looking back I can see that there is one consistent theme with the bullies whom I have encountered. They feed on fear and manipulation.
The first kind of bully I encountered as a child was the bully within a power position. Not only were my early educators bullies in this sense, but they were also pedophiles. So at an early age I became fearful of adult males in any authority role. As a functioning survivor I am perhaps more empathetic to people and situations around me. In spite of my (intimidating) 6’4″ stature and build, I believe I am a compassionate and caring man.
When I was a young adult, I found myself avoiding social places because I encountered a different type of bully. I call it the “small-man” syndrome. Since it is not often I can literally look another male in the eyes without looking down, and because of my build, I found I was a target for smaller men looking to “prove” themselves in some primitive test of strength. It was not so uncommon back then to be sitting in a bar or club and to be approached by one of the “small men” who would accuse me of something or insult me, or challenge me to a fight. It really is a sad pathetic attempt for such people to gain a feeling of strength and power. Often I would walk away so as not to engage in such primal behaviour. Because of this I was at times labelled a coward or a chicken. Though I was able to remove myself from such conflicts, inside I was terrified. Yes, I could have defended myself, but what people failed to see was that the person whom I was becoming was still afraid of conflict.
There seems to be a movement towards bully awareness. I have seen programs set up in workplaces and in schools focusing on bully prevention. I worked on an Opera about bullying. This is good. This is not enough. While I applaud the efforts of such organizations to create awareness, the healing from bullying is not supported. It still rests on the individual to come forward and to seek help. I find that people continue to make sweeping declarations about their stance for anti-bullying campaigns, yet when they think they are not being heard, they continue to bleed their caustic energy around them. I see it daily while driving, at work and in public. I have witnessed people who were upset at their precious coffee order throw their cup at the barista – letting the cup splash hot coffee on the employee. I have been denied a parking space because the person who cannot wait for a space decides to cut in front of me to take the space and in the process flips a defiant middle finger my way, while they yell at me. At one workplace I was told I would lose my job if I questioned how things were done. I was coerced into executing an extremely dangerous stunt on a film set without proper safety considerations, and as a result was injured for several years because of it. I am sure we all have examples of such things. There was a point when I had enough of it. We have passively allowed bullying to continue because we continue to live to a degree in fear. I can’t get involved. What if they turn that anger towards me? What if I get bullied instead of my co-worker if I stand up for them? What will happen to my job if I reveal the fear tactics used at work to get results? The reasoning as to why we can’t get involved continues to grow. We look down into our smartphones to distract us from engagement. Bullies then continue to thrive.
If we really cannot accept bully behaviour in our daily lives, then we must report it. We have to acknowledge that the behaviour of bullying is wrong. Only when we stand up and speak out will we see a more effective change. But it is up to us.
I was recently watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with my young daughter. Harry is really quite a resilient character. He survives and continues to do what he feels is right. He has the support of his teachers, and he has his friends that stand by him. My daughter was beaming watching the film. What struck me is the support the faculty of Hogwarts gives to the students. Of course we can argue about the different houses and how there is rivalry and fighting within the dynamics of the school – but even so, Harry helps other students, often doing what he feels is right as opposed to ignoring events unfolding around him. My children are learning about the power of real friendship as demonstrated in the Potter films. Of course they have their moments of sibling rivalry, but it warms me to see them still holding hands when they are out together. I know they ultimately love and respect each other, and to me that IS the greatest and most powerful magic people can create.
We cannot stamp out bullying, but we can stand up to it. To simply let it happen and do nothing is not acceptable. Feigning ignorance towards witnessing bullying is also not acceptable if we are to change human behaviours. As the Ministry of Magic states: Ignorantia Juris Neminem excusat (Ignorance of the law excuses no one). We can also learn to take time to acknowledge the achievements and accomplishments of our peers. The more we can let go of petty jealousies and bully-like actions in our day to day lives, then we are really working towards making the world a better, more magical place. Of course perhaps there is good advice to also be found in the Hogwart’s motto: Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus. At least wait until it is awake, and good luck to you if you do.