This week is UK national anti-bullying week. Schools have taken this up and have encouraged pupils to wear odd socks as a demonstration of individuality and uniqueness. This is a subject near to my heart because, as you may know, my father was a bully and I  was effected by his dysfunctional personality.

As a young child my father taught me to be a victim and that meant I was ideal material for the bullies at both infant and primary schools. By the time I got to the age of eleven I had, had enough. I began to fight back with my father, a strategy that led to me leaving home at the age of fifteen. From a school point of view I made the decision that when I entered secondary school I would no longer be bullied. 

On my first day at secondary school a boy took my school cap and ran off. He was a couple of years older than me but I thought it is now or never. When I finally caught up with him I hit him so hard across the head with my brief case that he needed to go to hospital to be stitched. I received three strokes of the cane from the deputy head which turned out to be no bad thing because no one ever bullied me again, though I did have to square up to a few people to show my point.

Throughout my working life in occupational health departments I have had to deal with bullies and the results of bullying. As you can imagine I get highly energised by such cases. Sadly, my experience is that from the Thatcherian era onwards bullying in the workplace has increased and in many organisations bullying by managers and colleagues can be common place, despite organisational bullying policies. Also those people that deal with the public directly will be aware that abuse and bullying by members of the public also seems to be on the increase.

Often bullying behaviour is learned by the bully in childhood. A learned bully can change their behaviour and often will do once they get beyond the playground. Change, after all, only takes time and willingness. However, the bullies that we have to be careful of are those that are on the psychopathic spectrum! A psychopath is someone who lacks both empathy and insight and therefore does not have any conscience or inhibition.

However, in general we, the majority, are only bullied with our permission. The population of the Philippines decided to remove their leaders, the dictators Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, who ran the country through martial law. The entire population took to the streets and peacefully asked them to leave. It took some time and despite the army and police force, in the end, that had to leave. In the UK we have the example of the population refusing to pay Thatcher’s poll tax. So many people stood up against this new law that parliament had to repeal the act. Currently we can see the people of Hong Kong attempting to stand up against the bully, in this case mainland China.

In many ways we get the politicians, leaders, bosses, and so on, that we choose to put up with. In the end it comes down to the fact that you can’t be bullied without your permission. It may not feel like that when you are feeling like a victim. But that is why we have police, unions, human resources and even occupational health services. 

Perhaps this is something that we should think about very carefully as we move into another general election and potential Brexit. 

Whatever does happen bullying should never be tolerated whether it is in the home, school, workplace or parliament. We all need to up stand up to bullies.

Take care and be happy

Sean x

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