A very personal view of a very personal problem
When one trawls through the website of Plymouth College, the first thing which catches your eye is the news that this Independent School had four pupils competing in the Olympics, one of whom, Ruta Meilutyte, won Gold for Lithuania; and another was a certain Tom Daley, winning a Bronze Medal for the United Kingdom. The website, however, does not delve deeply into the history behind Tom’s presence at Plymouth, nor of the deeply-personal bullying he experienced at his previous school Eggbucklands ‘Community College’, where he was threatened with having his legs broken, primarily because he was well-known as a diver and athlete. I have to admit that I watched the progress of the diving contest at the Olympics, as I was mildly interested in the progress of the British representative, Tom Daley; mainly because of the fact that this young man overcame the bullies, and went on to win a Medal.
The very concept of bullying is the domination of the weak by the more powerful. In the terms understood by millions of kids, it is the imposition of a deliberate terror for the sheer gratification of the larger or more aggressive person who wants, above all, to dominate and to terrorize. The attitude of the British education authorities in modern times is worrying in the extreme, as they insist that the perpetrators of the bullying be “talked to”, and “counseled”, and that all concerned must “understand” that bullying is wrong!
When I was a youngster in an English grammar school, I was smaller in stature than most of my school class being only four foot ten inches tall when I was fourteen; growing to five foot ten by the age of eighteen, as I received my growth later in life than most. So the ATW reader might understand that I was a natural target not, as one might guess, for my fellow classmates, but for a minority of the teachers, as they surmised I was less likely to answer back. I was regularly humiliated in front of the class, and also subjected to a denigrating regime of minor physical abuse. This abuse culminated in my being knocked unconscious because I opened my desk before the teacher had left the classroom, thus “insulting” the teacher in question! He jumped back across the classroom, caught me with the side of his hand and knocked me clean out of my seat and crashing into a cupboard door at the side of the room! I was unconscious for maybe two or three minutes. The form master was informed, but apart from establishing that I could walk and talk when I regained consciousness, nothing much was done! The reader must understand that, as there were very few limits on this side of the teachers’ activities, they tended to express themselves physically rather than verbally!
My travails were ended very shortly afterwards when my father, who learned of my problems at school, visited the school and came to my class when this teacher was present. My Dad, who was not that tall, but was well-built and extremely strong, just caught the teacher’s tie and pulled his head down level with my Dad’s; and explained that if he (the teacher) ever hit me again, there would be immediate and violent retribution! No histrionics, no attempt to “understand”, just a solid promise that the teacher in question would regret ever laying either a word or a fist upon his son again! Needless to say, for the rest of my time at school, I was left severely alone.
At one time in my engineering career, I was in charge of an installation project on a South African gold mine, and I used to travel down with the rest in the shaft cages to the six thousand feet level. One of the men travelling with us was an Afrikaner, an immensely strong man and an ex-wrestler. A man of limited intelligence, he used to amuse himself by grabbing his victim from behind, and squeezing their chests between his arms. As one of his victims was a friend of mine, a small wiry Welshman who really was in pain from this Neanderthal attack, I moved up, told this clown to stop and “Pick on someone his own size, strength and mental capacity!” He stopped his attack, only to become semi-hysterical with anger at some ‘Redneck Englishman’ who dared to tell him what to do, and that he would smash me into the dust of the shaft entrance, as we were now out of the cage.
I faced him, and said quietly that he might well beat me down, but I would break him in civil court, I would break him in criminal court, and that he would never work down a goldmine again! He backed away, but was in tears of anger and frustration as his friends led him away, To the best of my knowledge, he never assaulted anyone in “fun” again!
My stance regarding bullies and bullying is plain; the only thing which bullies respect is physical violence, and the stronger the retaliation, the better! All bullies are cowards, and it is only by facing down a bully, whether it be a single schoolboy armed with his fists, or a country armed with sophisticated weaponry, that they will realize that they are faced with superior force and the will to use that force, and will cease their depredations!