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  • Writer's pictureAmy Goodman

Are they just doing their job?

I've sat on writing this article for a long time now. Every time I thought it through or wrote it out I would have argument after argument (with myself) and wonder off on many tangents and down rabbit holes. I had to keep bringing myself back to the purpose of these articles, and that is that they are to be "bite sized" angled perspective pieces and not meant to discern what’s right from wrong, good or bad or solve any worldly issues – they are only meant to trigger thought.

So, let's see if I can stay on track. You too. If you find yourself in argument with any words here know that I’ve probably had that very same argument with myself whilst writing.

This article is about bullying. I am well aware of the devastating effects it can have on individuals, families and workplaces and that it absolutely needs to be continually addressed at all levels. If you are getting bullied, you ought to seek help and support. There are people that care about you and want you safe and happy and whole.

This article is a thousand steps away from even getting close to addressing, solving or discussing these things. Please see links at the end if you need immediate support with what you are going through.

It’s just a perspective piece so, here goes.

I was prepping for class (Muay Thai), just doing some basic stretches and range of motion movements. The kid's class was on and I was just off to the side of the mat. The kids were drilling some kicks with their partner holding a target when I heard one of the kids exclaim "you're being a bully!".

It's not like they were sparring, so I wasn't overly concerned. I wasn't running the class, so it wasn't really any of my business either. But I was interested to see what was going on.

Not getting technical at all, the drill was: the kicking kid threw some predetermined sequence of kicks, the pad holder "caught" the kicks and then chased the kicking kid down with the pads trying to tap them on the head. This was to remind the kicking kid to keep their hands up/protect their head at all times. This was what the pad holder was doing, but the kicking kid obviously did not like it!

It got me thinking about bullying.

Now, we're going to have to take a gigantic step away from the subject. Waaay away. So far away it's like a tiny little dot in your thought process.

Within every social segment there are bullies and those that are bullied and everyone in-between. It's not just a school yard issue. For the working adults reading this, you will know it's definitely also a workplace issue. It's everywhere. Across all segments of society. Across all age groups and all environments.

If it is everywhere, what if bullying is actually a necessary dynamic in society's landscape?

We're all meant to be relatively useful participants in this grand experiment, aren't we?

Ideally, would we not want all of our society members to be strong, capable, industrious and wise? At least to the best of our capabilities.

So, what if it is actually the bully's JOB to test others for weakness?

There are typically four main areas of attack for a bully: physical, emotional, psychological and social.

If you're successfully getting bullied on any of those levels, could it be that there is a weakness you need to be working on?

Maybe you are the “better” person. Yet no-one will know your value if you keep letting “bad” people push you down.

Could you see a therapist and work on your emotional vulnerabilities? Could you read some books about games people play and how to play back? Could you lift some weights and start training in martial arts? Could you see a coach or therapist and work on assertiveness training?

I don't see this as victim blaming. I see it as victim empowerment. Bullying exists. Some people are bullies. This is how it is across all species in the animal kingdom.

So, do we fight it? Sure. Always. Absolutely. If someone was bullying someone I cared for I would want to rip them apart. In the wild, even cross-species bullying intervention is not uncommon. Remember we want useful members of society - not destructive or destroyed. So maybe I’d refrain on the ripping apart bit.

But, there will always be bullies and, if I'm weak in some way and I'm also the weakest in a particular segment of society, that's where the bully will attack. Is it not then in MY best interest to make myself stronger?

What if I'm part of a particular segment of society where no-one overtly challenges anyone, no-one gets pushed around. Then a competing segment of society moves in (we could imagine a new business moving in on my segment's territory for example), one that has had its members pushed around and bullied. Which segment do you think will be stronger? Do you think that anyone in mine will have any endurance for the battle for position that ensues, especially if things get dirty? Or do you think that the one that's experienced bullying within its structure has better chances of lasting out the fight? (Cohesion could be an issue for them, but if bullying has been effectively addressed and monitored within the social segment we could arguably assume the group remains intact).

What if bullies have a job, and that job is to be a bully. If you're getting bullied, you have a job too and that is to get stronger. If you're not getting bullied, it's your job to ensure nothing is getting out of hand: discipline bullies when it does get out of hand and support the person getting bullied to get stronger.

Otherwise, victims stay victims. Without your protection, they're a victim - and this will be my one tangent:

I was maybe 13 years old. Every morning on my way to school/the train station I would cross paths with three much older guys. They were of working age, upwards of 17. Every morning they would physically and verbally intimidate me. Attempts to avoid them were futile as they would just follow me. Leaving at a different time would either make me way too early or too late for school. An alternative route was not ideal, I didn't grow up in the saftest of neighbourhoods and ironically this route was the safest for me to take.

My older brother - both big and intimidating - volunteered to walk with me to the station for a few mornings and the guys left me alone. Success! Or so I thought. However, the moment my brother was not with me they were back to bullying me. I realised that I had to do something myself.

I built up as much courage as I could muster as a 13 year old girl going up against 3 big adult guys and I walked out the door. I see them a block away and my heart is racing. I focus on my breath and my plan. When they're only a few steps away I hunker down, brace my fists together and flare my elbows and barge through the lot of them as hard as I could. They went flying, all three. They never bullied me again and I learned a lot about myself that morning that I maybe never would have learned had I not had that experience.

Back on track.

The kid's job in that class/kicking drill was EXACTLY to bully the other kid. If he didn't, there was no sense of urgency for the kicking kid to keep his hands up. He would slip into a false sense of security that no-one was hitting back and that he was safe. Life's not like that. The police won't always be there when you need them. HR won't always have your back. And big brothers can't be there all the time - they've got their own battles to win.

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