Thursday, October 28, 2010


There has been a lot of debate here in Australia of late about bullying in schools. Students seem to be beating other students up at regular intervals. Yesterday, I heard on the radio the story of a child routinely bitten and urinated on by another student...they were both five years of age. Where is this coming from? Is it worse than when I was at school? Than when my parents were at school? Than when my grandparents were at school? I don't know.
I finished school twenty years ago, so I started school thirty-two years ago. Certainly there was bullying. I should know - I was on the other end of it. I was a shy, delicate child by nature who had grown up without siblings. I found making friends difficult and, as a result, I didn't circulate amongst a wide circle of children. Add to this a lack of co-ordination, and I was a prime target in the boisterous, games-mad world of primary school. During physical education classes, I was always the last one picked to go on a team and only then with groans from the team's captain. At one stage, I couldn't cross the playground at lunchtime without having a ball aimed at my head. And it's a vicious circle - the more you're targetted, the more you retreat into your shell. At least, that was my response. At high school, I was in an all-female environment and while physical beatings were not common, certainly verbal ones were - and they could leave you just as bruised. I have heard many people say that school is a microcosm of real life, but I would beg to differ. There is something distinctly uncivilised, brutal and lord-of-the-flies like about school. Bullies neither seem to know nor care about social niceties and being mindful of the feelings of others. The object is to humiliate, to break down one's opponent, to win.
And this leads me to wonder if this is not why bullying seems to be getting worse. As I've opined on this blog before, so much now seems to be about winning, success and coming out on top. The rise of cyber-bullying, wherein victims can be humiliated on an international level, feeds into this. Not only will I beat you down in the schoolyard, I'll show the whole world me doing it.
The other thing is bullying doesn't end when the abuse stops. Personally I feel it has fed into - at least in part - my overall understanding of self...and even now, I flinch when I hear a ball being kicked.
What do you think? Were you bullied?


Bodecea said...

I believe times are harder now in school as they were at our days. But more than "when" the differences are "where" - in a ghetto-like quarter of Berlin with much poorness and migration it is & was not the same situation as in a nice village school in a moderate rich area like here, and a Gymnasium is different from a Hauptschule.

At my Gym, I NEVER saw physical attacks in nine years (80ties/90ties). But words could hurt, too, when you are a large and fat Teenage girl who was not invited to join the kissing games of the others... or sports in school - a horror trip!

In the primary school, there were some children beating other children. THERE, being large and fat was good - only a few of the bad boys tried to beat me (or my friends). One time and never again - I could reach out and hold them up in the air :-D.

I was an kind of outsider in school with 12-14 years and in the later years by choice - then I was "cool" - but I was not a victim.


Diana Kennedy said...

There has ever been bullying, I guess. There was in my Moms time and it was in my time. I was fine at school and with the classmates until College. There, I was beaten blue and green by classmates, both male and female.
There may be an increasing of violence in our time. (tough its hard to imagine that it can be worse of what I had to endure) But its possible. Kids are more and more raisen without learning empathy and respect.

Feronia said...

@ Bodecea -

My problem was I didn't want to be an outsider in those days! Happy to be now... :) And yes, the "where" aspect could certainly come into it.

@ Diana -

I think bullying has been around for a long time. It's such a demoralising experience to be a target of it, isn't it. The thing that amuses me is that I have since found out that the people who bullied me are not doing anything too exciting with their lives now... :-D

Pina said...

I was your opposite (like Bodecea wrote - I thought of myself as being "cool" and special), but I have never bullied anyone. Why would I do that anyway? I am too righteous (is this the correct word?) to do something like that, ever.

I think that such behavior is a mirror of the family life. The other day my colleague's son had to apologize to a girl who was bullied by his classmates, although he was just watching. That's how parents should deal with this, not just closing their eyes and saying that it is not their fault...

And in my opinion words hurt more than beating.

Sefarina said...

There have always been assholes in school, and I belive there will always be some.

In the first years, I was a very tiny and silent child and was often pushed around.
Then I discovered the high art of beating the biggest bully in public, at the right time and hard enough.
I had to do that only once, because it changed me somehow and from then on I was respected even by bigger lads, without having to prove myself again.

Still, I never bullied other people, because I don't see any good in it. Over the years I got to rescue other children and teens and "wrap" them into my "authority" for a while. Even today I'd say that a good smack is sometimes just the right answer to bullying.

Feronia said...

@ Pina -

Yes, I think bullying is potentially a behaviour learned at home, or at least an extension of bad behaviour, unhappiness etc in the home.

@ Sefarina -

I think I would have done myself a lot of good if I'd stood up to the bullies - they love it when you crumble in front of them.