I have never really given the issues of bullying serious thoughts until the recent incident involving Quaden Bayles. The more I thought about it, the more I go back in time to my childhood remembering how we handled or were made to handle the monster called bullying.
According to Wikipedia bullying principally involves “the use of force, coercion, or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominates or intimidate”. It is an oft repeated behaviour drawing from a perceived or real power imbalance based on physical or social advantages. From the hindsight of my childhood experience, three approaches generally worked for us.
The first approach usually came in the form of our parents taking us to school headmasters, principals, and other school authorities or the bully’s parents to report such acts of bullying. The bully was often fetched out, scolded, warned or served some hot-tea of canes. Often, the fear that they had been reported or received some canes had a way to reset the brains and behaviour of those bullies. The best way to explain the second approach is to use a personal story.
Upon maybe, a one-off or repeated complaint about a bully at school or in the street, my mother would ask the description of the bully-boy just to establish his age or physical built; sometimes, she walked us to the home of the offending bully to make a report to the parents (and also size up the oppressor). Upon her judgment that such a boy did not have two heads (was within your age range and his height not always relevant), and that with determination you could holdout in a fight with him, she would sternly warn me that I would receive additional beating if I return home next time to complain of such a boy. You never know what magic happens when you are thrown between the devil and the deep blue sea! I still remember occasions where the bully was dazed by the sheer willpower and out-of-the-blues strength from the long perceived weakling! You are virtually fighting with your head, teeth, nails, feet and sand, because another report from you at home would be a double-jeopardy!
And it often worked – even where you received some drumming from the oppressor, somehow, he would not like to engage you again, as that had a way of emboldening others to challenge their reign. Interestingly, beyond what may be called native or street wisdom, even within the academics, some authorities have also argued that part of a child’s developmental life should be the freedom to fight his fights. This is what Dr Helene Guldberg, a developmental psychologist, espoused in her book “Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear”. And with my childhood experience, I also hold that to a large extent this is true.
And the third approach was to confront the bully leveraging on the power of community. For us as children who grew up within a residential compound that was akin to a cantonment characteristically of the face-me-and-face-you mold with scores of resident children of varying school age, spread and attending school in good and often intimidating numbers within neighbouring schools, removing the mask of oppression from the bully was to tap from the cloud of this community. All we needed to do was to call a senior schoolmate from the same residential compound, and of older age or better physical built to read the riot act to the bully. On extreme occasions, especially where the bully was recalcitrant, a beating from many hands did the magic. In all, what we enjoyed then was the manifested sense and shield from a community though of different designs.
Today, the internet as buoyed by the social media has been able to create communities not limited by borders and social strata. And these online communities have also been helpful with the fight against bullying, and rallying round victims in presenting a united front against the monster and also boosting the confidence of the victims. This is what little Quaden Bayles has benefited with his recent experience – and the internet of social media of course has a way of somehow turning some victims to celebrities.
I do not begrudge the little-man – he is enjoying the fruits of his internet era. Who said that without the internet or social media in those days we never were celebrities? We often were celebrities in our minds and in our streets for disgracing the oppressor – even if our celebrity status lasted for one only week or only within our street or school!