Dealing With The “Bully Boys”

Last week at the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast, I saw a man of my age who was wearing a red button “Stand Up To Bullying”. There was a big anti-bullying day last week. “Bullying” seems to be flavour of the month.
Whether its at schools, workplaces, the internet…everyone talks about Bullying. Apparently one half of the British Labour Party is bullying the other half.
I do not take it lightly.
Back in the 1960s at my grammar school, Bullying was a big thing. The worst bullies were the teachers. Thats how it was. Wrong. Horrible. It ruined lives.
I was surprised that going back to the same school…to help my (then) 11 year old son choose a school, the Head Teacher talked about pastoral care. In the space of thirty years, Bullying had become a very bad thing…officially.
And if you visit your local primary school, you might see spaces in the playground. If your child or my grandchild has no friends to play with he/she stands in the space and a friend will be found.
Changed times. Rightly so.

The standard advice for people being bullied is “tell someone”… a responsible adult.

Which brings me back to the burning of Irish Flags and nationalist/republican election posters on Twelfth bonfires.
This Twelfth has been described as “quiet” …few confrontations. Big events….Garvaghy Road, Ardoyne, Ormeau Road etc took the headlines and as those confrontations fade into memory, the hatred that underpins the Twelfth has been exposed.
Yet it is curious. We are obliged to accept Orange “Culture”, so nobody in the LetsGetAlongerist establishment seemed to notice anti-Catholic, anti-Irish behaviour. But a few years ago, Polish flags started appearing on TWelfth bonfires and suddenly the LetsGetAlongerists noticed. Likewise when Alliance Party posters, particuarly those of Anna Lo, appeared on bonfires….well that was different.

LEtsGetAlongerism compels us to tolerate anti-Catholicism as “traditional”…but compels us not to tolerate hatred towards ethnic minorities. Yet there are some who might say that the Irish are actually the biggest ethnic minority in Norn Iron.

Yet there does seem to be some kinda recognition that these bonfires are very bad. But the LetsGetAlongerists bend over backwards to find a reason to control them…except the obvious one.
Thus we are told the fires are dangerous and a house was badly damaged in West Belfast. We are told the burning tyres are bad for the environment and indeed for animals…a pet cat was badly burned in Antrim.
And yet people tip-toe around the most obvious reason to control these bonfires. Sheer Hatred.

Are they a form of …Bullying? Do they make nationalists, Catholics feel threatened?
Should we tell a “responsible adult”. That after all is the new protocol. And it seems to me that the “responsible adults” we should tell are the Police Service of Norn Iron. But what exactly would PSNI do?
Well “crowd control” is a weak point in any police service. Some excesses regarding litter, public drinking, public urination, rowdiness is inevitable. Whether its an Orange Parade in Belfast, a GAA match in Clones or a Bruce Springstein concert in Croke Park,I dont expect the police to go in heavy handed with tear gas and water cannon but setting out some legislation might be a good start.
Public bullying is no different from private bullying.

Of course, telling a responsible adult is the modern protocol to deal with being bullied. In the past Victims tried other strategies. Suffer it, hoping to win some sympathy (rise above it) or be self-deprecating, the victims effectively bully themselves, allow themselves to become a figure of fun.

Is there a “progressive” way to deal with “political bullying” such as seeing your election poster on an Orange bonfire? Laugh it off…curry favour with LetsGetAlongerists cos you are cool with it.
It is a strategy that does not work for me.
It is not just your name and your photograph in the flames…there is a name of a political party …and whether you received a few hundred votes or several thousand votes, you should maybe consider the feelings of the people who actually voted for you.
As to Flags….If you can get worked up…quite properly …about the disrespect shown to the Polish, Portuguese or Spanish flags, simple consistency means you should get worked up when my flag is torched.
Thats not too much to ask for in return for my family’s vote.

To laugh it off, to stay silent…thats for LetsGetAlongerists. But lets not allow our politicians to hide behind being “progressives”.
“Progressive Nationalism” is a meaningless form of words unless it seeks to defend the dignity of Irish people in Norn Iron.

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30 Responses to Dealing With The “Bully Boys”

  1. Mary Martin says:

    I think bullying is still around but takes more subtle forms.

  2. Mary Martin says:

    Thankfully things are better for gay children but it is still difficult for transgender or non binary people in high schools, for example.

    • Catholic voter says:

      To what extent should children with non binary gender be accommodated in schools?

    • Nobody should be bullied.
      Bullying is usually about size, disability, accent, any form of difference.
      In 1960s I dont ever recall anyone at school bullied because of sexual orientation. It would never have dawned on is that people had sexual orientations.
      It is of course a good thing that byoung adults recognise and accept their sexual orientation at an early stage. But it is really only a subject that has been mentioned in the last decade or so.
      Certainly in my small town, I see children (ie people under 16) hold hands and even kiss schoolmates of the same sex. Wearing school uniform, they do it quite openly.
      I do not think it is appropriate …in the same way that I dont like to see “straight” children behave in this way.

  3. Wolfe tone says:

    The standard policy regarding bullying I.e tell a responsible adult, has done more damage to kids in my opinion. It has made a child more powerless I.e he/she hasn’t the capability to look after themselves, which results in lower self esteem as they further become dependent on others.
    When I was at school, the official policy was to tell a teacher, but quietly the teacher would ‘see nothing’ if a bully got a slap in the mouth. I learnt more from my teachers than I would in today’s schools I.e stand up for yourself, it’s a big bad world out there. In case you havnt noticed it’s still a big bad world out there despite the new policy on bullying in schools.

  4. If a person is bullied at school, the person will be bullied in a working environment.
    The traditional Christian Brothers approach that it will make a man of people never worked for me.
    It blighted my life. And some would say I am “weak” and of course they were/are right.
    The one good thing about me is that I made damn sure it never happened to my sons.

  5. Wolfe tone says:

    Yes indeed it most certainly can blight ones life. But I gotta tell you the day I slapped back the school yard bully, and got an approving look and nod from my teacher, retrieved a lot of self esteem.
    I taught my kids to stand up for themselves no matter what a school said about the rules. I taught them to never make fun of others and to be civil but never let anyone walk over you. My son was a constant for bullying at primary school and despite my wife complaining to the school at various times it never ceased. Until the day I sat him down and told him the only way you will stop this is by punching the bully in the nose. I explained win lose or draw the bully will be very reluctant to bother with you again. Trust me the day he did that, I seen an almost change within himself. He wasn’t afraid anymore; he learnt he had the ability to look after himself.
    I know of several young lads whose parents are teachers, and their kids have been tortured so much at school, but strictly forbidden to fight back, who have become shells of themselves. The parents have followed the rules and made their kids report their abuse but to no avail. The torturing continued so much so that in desperation one of the parents asked my wife did her kids get much bullying. She said they did initially but once we sat them down and told them what to do it ended. ‘Ignore the school policy. Treat people like you would want to be treated. If someone goes out the way to hurt you you have my authority to slap them hard in the face. Let me deal with the teachers and the consequences.’ It took a while but the teachers kid finally took the advice and is now a confident young man; the bully stopped.

    • I really chose a bad metaphor for the burning of Flags etc and never really wanted to go down this road.
      In another incarnation, I have written a lot about fifty years ago.
      School was quite simply Hell…and I left at 17 (because of bullying and the catalyst was an incident witnessed by teachers). I was just a few months from doing my A levels.
      The lesson is that if you are bullied st school, people will bully you in the work-force.
      The choice many have is to resist or take the Ronnie Corbett option of demeaning myself to keep people off my back. Really thats the story of my entire life (childhood and adult) and effectively rescued by an amazing woman and two sons and some good “internet” friends who disregarded by limitations. My mission was to make sure that it never happened to my sons.
      I did get to University…at age 53….35 involuntary gap years.
      Of course, nowadays Id recommend the “kick the bully in the balls option” and I stand condemned for not doing that in my own life.
      But in a lot of cases, fighting back is not a feasible option. I grew up (bad choice of words) to be 5ft 1 inch (my passport adds an inch) and rightly or wrongly that CAN frame peoples perceptions of me.
      Its the first thing people notice…reasonably enough….but in a lot of cases, people cant really get past that. Of course, most people are far too sophisticated to say anything (but a lot of unsophisticated adults will still want to point this out).
      I would never demean myself by laughing at myself now…make the jokes before others do….I owe the people who love me better. In fact I am actually a bit aggressive these days….

      • Mary Martin says:

        Thanks for sharing this John. I think that the schools and work places should take active anti-bullying policies, to make it unacceptable. Sometimes a bully will be called out by his peers, and that happens more if it is in the culture not to bully. I would like to think that there is less bullying now, but on the other hand there are new ways to bully, less physical, more psychological, which can be hard to see for teachers..

      • Wolfe tone says:

        Yes probably went off track a wee bit. However the gist is the same as far as I am concerned I.e ignoring or indulging bullying or the bully isn’t helpful for it or their victims.
        Those who encourage us to ignore bigotry or indeed accept it are doing everyone a disservice. It’s cowardice on a grand scale and teaches future generations that it is ok.

      • benmadigan says:

        “But in a lot of cases, fighting back is not a feasible option”.
        Would like to add another story to illustrate the point. Picture the scene: an afternoon tea party for elderly friends and relations.Upon his return from school my nephew burst into the living room, bloody nose, black eye, distraught due to bullying My uncle took him by the arm and marched him up to the bathroom “Clean yourself up – sit down and do your homework. Don’t get into a fight you can’t win and never, ever disturb the ladies in that manner – ever again”
        the boy joined a boxing club!And learned how to look outfor himself. because if you don’t stand up for yourself no one else will

  6. Mary Martin says:

    Could you do a blog on Nice?

  7. Catholic voter says:

    I would worry about online bullying too.

  8. Wolfe tone says:

    If young people are taught not to take social media too seriously then on line bullying wouldn’t be an issue. Alas they are taught younger and younger that social media is a big deal when it shouldn’t be. Just like ‘telling a responsible adult’ in the playground, they are being further disempowered to deal with issues they are well capable of dealing with. Social media should be treated in a common sense way but the owners and advertisers want as many people hooked as possible thus they make it a big deal.
    We don’t live in a fairytale. It’s a big bad world out there and so is social media, and kids should be told this.

    • I think thats a fair point but its hard to get young people to get the balance between serious stuff and silly stuff.
      The great thing about getting old is that I have absolutely no fears….none.
      We outlive our fears.

  9. Political Tourist says:

    Most bullying happens outside school.
    The adult world is full of bullying.
    From the workplace to politics.
    I’ve heard stories of bullying between neighbours in the suburbs.
    I even came across a case of bullying in Beverly Hills over a retaining wall.
    Which ended up in a court case.

  10. Mary Martin says:

    Do you think Western leaders should support Erdogan?

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