Much has been written on the subject of bullying but this most abominable subject recently reared its ugly head on none other than Twitter. Fortunately, the matter was dealt with both promptly and effectively but it brought back painful memories of bullying in one form or another for much of my life.
Bullying can take so many forms and is not simply physical. In fact, psychological bullying is probably far harder to deal with. I would be the first to admit that as a young child, I was quite timid and introverted, and these traits were quickly seized upon by others with far fewer scruples. From memory, my first experience of any form of bullying was as a nine year old boy chorister. Now a church is probably the last place one would expect bullying to be present, but as anyone familiar with choirs will be aware, they comprise people of all ages and backgrounds, many of which could hardly be described as Christian. This is somewhat ironic but many youngsters simply join choirs because of parental pressure rather than actually wanting to be a part of the church community.
So what form did this bullying take? In simple terms, I would arrive at the vestry to find that my casssock and surplus had either been purloined by someone else or simply hidden, thereby causing me emotional grief. With a service imminent, there were occasions when I simply had to miss my attendance because I was unable to robe in time for the start. This had further implications because only those with good attendance records were asked to attend wedding ceremonies which paid quite well at the time.
This was only my introduction to bullying which really manifested itself during my years at grammar school. I was one of a few pupils who started the school without knowing anyone, having received my primary education outside the town. Almost from the start, I became a sitting target … again because of my general introversion. As a first year pupil, I looked upon those in the sixth form with awe and a certain degree of fear, especially as they seemed to carry so much authority. On one memorable occasion, the entire class was banned from the classroom during breaks. Unfortunately I had left something in the room and sought permission to return in order to retrieve it. A group of my peers saw this as an opportunity to belittle and humiliate me by preventing me from leaving the classroom. This was possible as the door opened outwards into a corridor.
Knowing that I was likely to be punished for contravening the occupancy ban, I started to bang on the door in the hope that those on the other side would disperse. Sadly this had no effect so I banged even harder and subsequently put my fist through a pain of glass. I was extremely fortunate not to have cut my hand or wrist, and in the commotion that followed, the bullies quickly disappeared. It was necessary to report the incident because of the broken glass, and this only added to my trials and tribulations as I was labelled a grass. This was to haunt me for several years.
During breaks, I would avoid mixing with most of my fellow pupils, clinging to one or two whom I tried to befriend. As I progressed through the school, I used to relate more to the younger pupils … in effect trying to protect them from some of the things I had experienced. The usual subtle forms of bullying continued with false rumours circulating, almost daily humiliation, and often being given the silent treatment. I have always been a tidy and organised individual and I would often return to my classroom desk to find that it had been ransacked. On other occasions, all my textbooks would be hidden. Whilst these actions may seem trivial in isolation, the combined effect caused me considerable distress resulting in illness and even more isolation. Like many teenagers, I secured a weekend job to provide me with some spending money and saved hard to buy myself a new bicycle as my parents could not afford to do so. This was my pride and joy and after a period of using public transport to get to and from school, I began to cycle there. Needless to say, my bike didn’t go unnoticed by the bullies. On one afternoon, a group waited for me at the bicycle sheds and as I approached, they deliberately rocked my bike whilst it was locked in the wheel frame. The result was a heavily buckled wheel and forks meaning that I had to drag my bike home for a distance of nearly three miles and then incurred a hefty repair cost. By the time my sixth form education came to a close, the bullying had more or less ceased but I still carried the scars.
The ensuing years saw me grow in emotional strength so that I could more readily deal with the potential nastier sides of life. Like many, I’ve experienced some bullying in the work place but have generally been able to shrug it off. However, at the last company for which I worked, there was a complete change of senior management in my division. This happened following the departure of a managing director who bullied everyone in his sight. The new team was regarded as a breath of fresh air by almost everyone, not least because they were prepared to listen to the staff. Unfortunately, there was a single fly in the ointment. A person had transferred from the parent company, Argos, and it was apparent from the start that he was both incompetent and hostile. Some quick research and conversations with staff at Argos soon ratified this. Suddenly, after over eleven years service, I was being told of rumours circulating the company that I was incompetent at my job, a troublemaker and treated my fellow workers with disrespect. I was dumbfounded to say the least, but then discovered that some colleagues were distancing themselves from me. I eventually traced the source of the unfounded allegations, it being this one new member of management. Even with the help of loyal colleagues who knew the rumours to be totally untrue, it took several months to clear my name and to finally get the bully to confess that he had no grounds on which to base his statements. It was simply because he had taken an instant dislke to me which is no reason for bully boy tactics.
This brings me back to the recent bullying I experienced on Twitter. One of my long term followers, whom I had mistakenly regarded as a friend, decided to criticise me on several occasions for some of the people I followed and effectively said that I shouldn’t be tweeting with them. It would have been a simple matter for this individual to block those persons from appearing in his stream but alas that was far too easy and a major disagreement ensued. Needless to say, this person no longer features in my life as I will not be bullied or controlled by anyone!
I’m sure many of you reading this will question how I could ever be described as introverted. All I can say is that my life experiences have made me a stronger and more resilient person although I still retain a high emotional side to my character. Many will probably say that I talk far too much … indeed I am known to be confined to Twitter jail on occasions for exceeding my hourly limit! That is simply because I love talking with people, communicating generally, and learning from people’s different cultural backgrounds. Maybe that now makes me something of an extrovert!
Most of my experiences happened many years ago at a time when bullying was effectively denied by all in authority. Nowadays it is finally acknowledged but sadly, this appears to have made very little difference. Bullying of any kind, whether that be in school, the workplace, or even on social media sites, is evil and in my opinion should be treated as a criminal offence.