Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

17 April, 2014


Recent studies have shown that babies are actually born with a mean streak, confirming a long-standing personal belief about bullying being an in-bred compulsion to "hurt" others with differences and to have fun doing it. A startling revelation to be sure, but in truth, bullying is an age-old social disorder, or disease, that festers and passes from generation to generation.

I have come to the conclusion that parents have to be aware of this fact-of-life phenomenon and be prepared to teach the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.") from the word go. Society in general has never effectively dealt with bullying, in spite of much research on the subject.

In experiments conducted by University of British Columbia psychology professor Kiley Hamlin, babies aged nine to 14 months were found to take pleasure in the bullying of individuals they saw as different from themselves. The study, in a terrifying preview of the social minefield, offered the infants a choice between a snack of graham crackers or green beans. The children were then shown a video of two puppets. In the video, one puppet favoured the same snack as the child while the other puppet made a food faux pas by choosing the snack the child had passed on.

The children, when asked which of the puppets was their favourite, selected the puppet with similar tastes. The experiment takes a slightly sinister turn when the children are shown videos of the puppets bullying each other. Not only did the children not mind when their favourite puppet picked on the puppet who chose differently from them, they also showed favouritism to new puppets who bullied the puppet that liked different snacks from the infant.

Bullies come in all shapes, sizes, ages and sexes and as a youngster I had to deal with all of them.

Even though people who bully cause a great deal of pain for others, in truth, more often than not they need help too. Many one-time bullies simply grow out of their mean-spiritedness, but there are still others who, if they do not learn how to change their behaviours, usually end up in trouble with the law. By age 24, 60 percent of people who were childhood bullies have at least one criminal conviction. People who continue to bully have many other problems as adults with histories of alcoholism, antisocial personality disorders and need for mental health services.

My experience has been that some people who bully may not even understand how wrong their behaviour is and how it makes their victims feel. When they get a taste of their own medicine, they surprisingly feel seriously wronged and this is not the first time that I have written on the subject.

I agree that the best defense against people who bully is to LIKE YOURSELF, be CONFIDENT IN YOURSELF, and DO NOT LOOK LIKE A VICTIM. You should never try to beat bullies at their own game. You cannot bully someone who bullies into not being a bully. Sometimes, that is. I do not advocate my method of dealing with childhood bullies, but in the end it was effective. I just had to suck it up for a few years and bide my time.

I was first introduced to bullying when I was around seven years of age and I endured scrapes, bruises, ripped clothing, intimidation and sheer fright for a good four years. There were times when even an older sister of two of my bullies even got in on the act. On my way to and from school, I would walk blocks out of my way and hide behind trees and houses in order to avoid my tormentors. When confrontations were unavoidable, my heart would pound out of my chest and I would be overcome with a nauseous chill. I learned to run fast, very fast.

My bullies were three to six years older than me, members of about three families who usually ran in a group. They were relentless and I hated the sight of them. They, on the other hand, seemed to delight in the sight of me -- a hapless and helpless smaller kid who quaked in their presence, and they knew it.

Time and mother nature, however, were great equalizers in my case. I put on a growing spurt and learned how to spat in the school yard. Self-defense lessons from my dad also eventually served me in good stead. One day when I was about 11, I was accosted by one of my bullies in the local post office. He was alone and as he reached out to push me in the chest, I saw my long-awaited opening and planted my fist squarely between his eyes, as my dad had coached me to do. "Get that first punch in Dick...And make it a good one!"

Stunned, bleeding from his nose and stooping to pick up shattered glasses that I had not noticed him wearing, he cried in retreat: "What did you do that for? You'll have to pay for these glasses. My parents just bought them!"  I nodded in tentative agreement because I felt bad about the glasses.

When I got home that afternoon, I half proudly announced to my mother that I had punched Bill ------- and that we'd probably have to pay for his broken glasses. "Are you kidding?" my indignant mother responded. "After all that he and his brothers have done to you and the clothing that they have ruined? Not a chance."  Billy boy, by the way, never mentioned the glasses again...And neither did I.

A day or two later when I was walking home from school with a friend, one of the older bullies approached me saying: "You think you're tough Wright, hitting a guy with glasses on? Take me on for size!" Without hesitation I found myself tackling the guy, knocking him off his feet. My friend Jackie was quick to join the fray and together we pummelled the somewhat rotund loud-mouth into submission on the downtown sidewalk as his peers watched in stunned amazement.

Word spread quickly about my new-found tendancy to fight back. I was never again bothered by a bully. Oddly enough, in due course, I became friends with most of the bullies who I sensed always looked at me with wary eyes. I even reached the point of feeling sorry for several of them in later years because fate had not dealt all that kindly with them.

All those guys are dead now, God rest their souls...And I'm still alive almost 70 years later to talk about that rather unpleasant period in my childhood. A period that unfortunately is a rite of passage for so many youngsters, even to this day.

I still hate bullies and bullying and wish that I could punch everyone of them right between the eyes on behalf of helpless and hapless victims everywhere. That's just me talking though, but I know my dad would agree, even if others wouldn't.


Harold A. snary said...

Like your story Dick. My sister was physically, and mentally challenged, so guess who had to stand up for her. Maybe that is why i have a soft spot in my heart for the less fortunate, and why I joined the Shriner's. I find it hard to believe that we are born evil, even though the bible tells us this.Having been a farmer for many years, I can attest to learned behavior. funny I never got in that many fights, it seems that one gains respect with a very few episodes of I won't take that attitude.

Dick Wright said...

Don't confused "born evil" with "mean spirit" Harold. Bullying is the direct result of a mean spirit. First learned behavior in every child's life comes from the parent(s), of course.