Accusing Former Tormentors

After my previous post, Erika recommended that I watch a recent TV programme. I won’t repeat the link here, as most of you won’t understand it, but I’m devoting this post to it.

In the programme, three people in their forties return to the schools where they were bullied to confront their former bullies. The former bullies – two of them, in each case – are not told whom they’re going to meet in advance and have no idea what’s going to happen. The hero (that’s how they’re described in the programme) enters the room and initiates a discussion about how they suffered as children.

In each case, the former bullies react in a different way. In one, a woman, who doesn’t remember the actions attributed to her, says, “If I hit you, there must have been a reason.” Later, she tells the hero, “You need to think what you did to make children hit you.”

In another case, a man, who remembered it happening, says, “You asked for it,” meaning that the hero behaved in such a way that bullying was inevitable.

In the third case, the bullies admitted that the bullying took place and apologised.

I found the programme fascinating, but I’m not sure I agree with the way it was organised or with all the conclusions viewers were encouraged to draw. When you’re accused of something, especially something you don’t remember doing, and especially when the accusation is sprung on you without warning, you generally do your best to defend yourself. Those people might have thought differently after reflection, but they weren’t given time for that.

Nearly forty years had passed since the events described. The people had all changed since then. I don’t think it was fair to blame those people for what happened when they were young children who didn’t know what they were causing.

The suggestion that the boy asked for the bullying, or brought it on himself, was dismissed as ridiculous, but I suspect it was true – it certainly was in my case. I came to expect to be bullied and so I behaved in a way that would make it almost inevitable – not intentionally, of course.

Another thing I didn’t like about the programme was its implication that all bullying includes physical violence.

BUT there were parts I liked and agreed with completely. The fact that bullying can influence future profession, life style, country of residence and more. The importance of talking about what happened.

So if a lot of people watched that programme, I think that was good, because it showed that the effects of bullying go much further than the playground. I wish there were a simple solution. Any solution has to be based on more education and more adult involvement. Beyond that, I don’t know what can be done to prevent bullying.

By Miriam Drori

Author, editor, attempter of this thing called life. Social anxiety warrior. Cultivating a Fuji, edition 3, a poignant, humorous and uplifting tale, published with Ocelot Press, January 2023.

8 replies on “Accusing Former Tormentors”

Firstly, can I apologise for the comment I left on your previous post Miriam, I thought I’d finally left the past behind me. Seems it’s closer still than I realised!

With regards to this programme. It certainly sounds like the intention was good, although the delivery seems to have left a bit to be desired. I agree that bullying is something that needs to stay in the forefront of everybody’s minds. It’s probably worse for kids these days – at least in the ‘old’ days, most bullying ended at home time and didn’t start again until next day. Nowadays there’s the technology for it to continue 24 hours a day if the bullies want.

It does seem to have improved in some ways, my own daughter was bullied when she started secondary school and the school was very quick to deal with it. Whether that’s a general sign, or we were just lucky with the school, I don’t know,

Sorry for rambling on, all this to say that I agree with you. I too wish there was an answer, but I don’t know what it is.

No need to apologise – not for “rambling” and not for what you wrote before. I don’t think it’s possible to leave the past behind. If you try to do that, it will catch up with you when you’re not watching. Our past is a part of us that can’t be detached. It’s what made us who we are. We can’t forget our past. But we can learn to use it in a positive way. The programme tried to show that. One of the participants returned to the USA (where he’d moved in an attempt to distance himself from his past) and his single life, although we don’t really know how the programme affected him. But the other two were shown talking for the first time with their families about the implications of what happened to them.

Sadly, I think you were lucky with your daughter’s school. (Not sadly for you, of course.)

Hi Miriam, Let me warn you this is going to be a long rant and might surprise some.
Bullying and it’s results is something that features heavily in my novels. It’s something I’ve actively resisted all my life. The reasons for it are, I believe, simpler than most people imagine. Fear. Fear of non-conformity. Fear of being rejected by ones tribe or band or gang and the need to find security in the acceptance of that tribe. Anyone who is different, maybe has red hair, or is a tall girl or is shy and socially awkward, anything that marks an individual as being different, will attract the suspicion of the tribe.
This tribal belonging is so strong in humans – it gets codified into social-religious control. Sects get created that exclude and demonise the – other. Rules are put in place to enforce the tribal identity even to the extent of body marking, tattoos and mutilations to signal belonging. Clothes, language and social behaviours serve to re-enforce these tribal separations.
Armies and police are created to enforce the tribal rules and to control or kill non-conformists or outsiders.
Multiculturalism in modern societies accounts for the need for tribal separatisms by permitting faith schools and religious seperation. Tribal origin is codified and accepted, such as African-American or British-Asian.
Sport is created to fulfil the need for tribal battle and identification. Team colours and flags are waved and chants created.

In many schools, pupils are divided in to ‘houses’ with their own colours and names. Bullying is learned there as tribalism is reinforced and encouraged through a curriculum that teaches tribal history and reinforces hierarchy and social structures based upon tribal/nationalistic loyalty. Everything in our society reinforces tribalism and fear of the different or unknown.

Acceptance of religious sects – sectarianism, is deeply rooted, even in those who would intellectually reject the idea of bullying. Some of you reading this will belong in such a way.
I think that is why the people on that TV programme would not easily accept personal responsibility for their actions. They are trained and conditioned not to. “My victim, stood apart, was not of my tribe and therefore they brought it on themselves. They were different.”

Even victims can come to believe they brought physical or emotional violence upon themselves by being different, by failing to conform and fit within the tribe.
I hate my red hair, my daughter hated her height and spent her life stooped trying to make herself shorter. She has back problem’s now, to say nothing of ruined self esteem.
The solution?
Beware tribalism in all it’s manifestations and try to change it, starting with your own tribal or sect acceptance. Question the instruments of tribal control.

I was going to say sorry to be so attacking and forceful here but…
I’m not sorry.

I thought I’d share this email response to Miriam, It’s best said to all who read this:
Hi Miriam, I know the comments were strong and above all I know I was speaking about an ideal unlikely to ever be pursued.
I guess I just tilt at windmills like a foolish Spanish knight.
I was not suggesting banning anything. I guess I’d just like people to be more self aware and take greater personal responsibility, give in less to tribal pressure.

All spamless comments are welcome.

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