By Alvin R. Cabral
Years ago, my son got into a scuffle with a classmate. They were naturally summoned to the principal’s office. My son’s reason was that he was merely defending another classmate who was being bullied. Some time later, I flipped out when he told me that again there were hecklers ganging up on him in a game he was playing on his iPad.
On both occasions, I told him to chill and fire back only if necessary. Otherwise, as they say, let it go in one ear and out the other. He listened and continues to take this to heart, and he’s doing fine.
In the bullying my son witnesses at school, I see parallels to what beset me during my time, when everything was done mano-y-mano.
Anyone who knows me at work knows there is a particular section of the newsroom that I like to playfully pester— but not bully — for fun; you should see the looks on two of them when I approach. Both these colleagues were the first to know my secret: that I too was bullied when I was young. No school kid goes from being a consistent top-five student annually all the way down the class’ bottom-feeders in just one school year for no reason.
The reactions of my colleagues — AKA my every day victims — were priceless.
Daily Victim #1: “What?! You were bullied? It doesn’t show!”
Daily Victim #2: “Oh, so that’s why you’re taking it out on us!”
I can’t exactly remember how it started; all I know was that it became more dreadful by the day. It came to a point that I wouldn’t go to school at all; I’d spend my entire day at the cinema repeat watching the same movie until I knew it was time to go home. I was never beaten though. The closest I got to a physical altercation was during drafting (or design) class; sitting quietly and minding my own business, the bullies peppered me with invectives. Good thing I had friends who told them to shut up before all hell broke loose.
Bullies in school often grow up to be not very nice people. Haven’t you ever encountered colleagues rubbing you the wrong way? Or dealt with racism and discrimination, especially cases where they do it point-blank and are proud of it? It is a sad reality: people, even as adults, look down on others as if they were garbage. It’s not alright in school playgrounds just like it’s not alright in the world of adults.
People jumping queues just because they have better or more ‘defining’ clothes than others in line. Persons demanding preferential treatment because of race. Giggling at others who can’t speak proper English. I can go on.
One time, at a mall, I heard people say something in their language that I didn’t understand, but good thing my friend who spoke their language and who was with me at that time, did. They were saying, roughly translated, “why are they not attending to us first? These people from [these countries] are just workers here.”
Luckily for me, after years of being bullied, I learnt to not always react. Perhaps because of my early years, I sympathise with those who stay frozen in the face of a psychological beating. In time, I learnt to stand up for myself. And I wish the same for my son.
Alvin will give you moral support on the playground — or in the office, if you need it