This entry is prompted by a piece about a little girl in the US being picked on for being different. http://tinyurl.com/22w6fzz
To my shame, I admit that when I was a young kid, I may well have been one of those bullies. There seems to be a degree of pack mentality among young males. In nature, the lame, injured, ill etc, particularly among prey animals, are often driven away from the rest of the herd because they attract predators. But that isn't much of an excuse for so-called civilised people. Get me one-on-one with those different kids and there probably wouldn't have been a problem.
One thing is for sure - if my parents had seen me pick on other kids along with the rest of the pack, I would have been in trouble. That was NOT how I was brought up. But even kids are smart enough not to do it in front of adults like teachers who could pass on the word at the next parent-teachers night.
In my second year of high school, for reasons unknown, other than he was possibly different in some way, I took a real dislike to a student a year behind me. And I picked on him. I recall one day giving him such a hard time that he lost it and lashed out, hitting me once. So, full of righteous indignation, I went after him and gave him a pounding. A teacher appeared on the scene, breaking things up. Still full of myself, I angrily claimed the other had hit me. Other students however quickly told the real story, that I had been the instigator. I wasn't exactly one of the popular crowd anyway (anyone seeing the irony?). So I was in trouble, my then less-than stellar reputation among the teaching staff dropped that much lower, the victim went on his way and I left him alone after that.
I did not give him much thought for several years until my younger sister commented one day that this young fellow had attempted to kill himself, partly because everyone 'hated' him.
That revelation really floored me. I was one of those arsewipes who had helped drive this kid towards suicide, even though I had left him alone for several years. By then I was at a senior high school and hadn't even seen the kid for more than a year. But, my God, did I feel guilty.
The next year, that same student now appeared at the same senior high school. So I made a point of saying 'g'day' to him. The look of mixed relief and gratitude on his face made me feel even worse. Out of a sense of guilt, I kept saying hello any time I saw him around the school. It eventually ceased being a thing of guilt and instead became just a natural thing to do. Did we become friends? Not really. But I think he appreciated knowing there was at least one person around who was going to at least make some sort of effort. And my greeting was always answered with a big, toothy smile.
That was thirty years ago. I have no idea where that young man ended up or how he is doing. I hope he is doing alright. Chances are that he's actually doing better than me. But I like to think that I have never forgotten the lesson that he didn't ever realise he had taught me. I like to think I haven't picked on anyone since. Well apart from good-natured stirring. And when politicians engage in stupidity, as far as I am concerned, it's open season.
I have had a mental list in my head for years now of people that I wasn't nice to when I was younger, much stupider and full of my own bullshit. I like to think that eventually I will find them all and simply be nicer to them.
As for Katie, the little sweetheart in the original article, she now has 435 comments of support from people all around the world, with celebrities like Alyssa Milano, Eliza Dushku and Tara Moss getting behind her. It's a pretty damn good bet that the bullies don't have anything like that going for them.
PS a quick update - Katie's story has really gone viral and soooo many people expressing their support for her. Yayy.
PPS At 16:02 Australian Daylight Savings Time, November 22, there were now over 1,200 messages of support for Katie and her mother.