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?