Thursday, October 6, 2016

Jeremy Vine's letter to a beaten up 15 year old is inspiring - I really do wish I'd had something like that too - A ReadItTorial


If there's ever a subject that simultaneously makes my blood boil, and has me throwing my hands up in despair, it's Bullying.

This week is anti bullying week - and it's horrible to hear that it's still one of the biggest factors in youth suicide.

After reading an article my wife brought to my attention, a letter from Jeremy Vine to a 15 year old boy who was attacked by a mindless thug, once again I couldn't help feeling waves of anger, frustration and helplessness - about the horrendous ordeal the poor teenager had to go through and also about my own school experiences with bullying.

Frustration comes from the fact that it's something that never really leaves you. It doesn't matter how much better your life is now, or how many times you've talked it over with folk who want to help try and understand what you went through, something that horrible happening to you at a time when your life experiences are shaping you and building the foundations of your character sometimes needs more than even the most soothing words or emotional compensation.

Ideally, bullying should not be allowed to happen in the first place. Teachers at my school knew that it was happening, knew exactly who the bullies were, knew who they were victimising, and blithely turned a blind eye - and I never understood why. There wasn't the same mechanism in place back then to complain as there is now, nor were there any school inspections that might have picked up on or highlighted problems of that ilk (and I'm not even sure that happens effectively enough now anyway but I'd be glad to be corrected on that point).

Definitely in one or two cases at my school, the teacher's own fears - that they themselves might be attacked - probably led to them trying to look the other way a lot of the time.

Unlike the attackers Vine is describing, his own bullies and the thugs that beat that young boy, the bullies at my school weren't the underprivileged kids - I was one, and we tended to stick up for each other and stick together as much as possible.

The bullies at my school were the kids whose parents would breeze into school at the drop of a hat, complaining the loudest that their little darlings shouldn't be punished for "typical boisterous behaviour" if anything ever did come to light (and in the case of one bully, who coated a classmate in linseed oil in a metalworking class - lethal stuff to get anywhere near your eyes or face - that's pretty much what happened when the parents were informed).

Talking about Vine's letter and my own experiences with my wife, I think I realised that there's only one course of action for me, and that's just to accept that I'll never directly meet, nor be troubled by the instigators ever again. I wish I could actually say I wouldn't see them but in one particular case, that's sadly not so. Brash macho idiot me would love to have 5 minutes alone in a room with one of them (the bassist of a band who 'were a thing' in the 90s -  who was one of the nastiest characters at school right into the sixth form and probably beyond), and who still crops up regularly in any 90s music reminiscence on the radio or TV).

Rational me would love to take those 5 minutes to explain to him what it felt like being bullied by him, to try and illicit some sort of a reaction but I doubt there'd be one that would make any kind of sense and certainly none that would offer any closure.

I certainly doubt there'd be any kind of an apology. He doesn't exactly fit Jeremy Vine's view of what the traditionally imagined bully is, or becomes later on in life but I've always made a point never to purposely listen to any of his band's music - and I'll go eerily quiet if anyone ever mentions that band fondly. Being bullied has a habit of taking the rational sane way you normally think, and putting it through a mincer.

On the blog we do our utmost to champion books and programmes that address and talk about the tricky subject. It's almost impossible for a book to be a direct help when you're right there in the situation, experiencing it first hand but children's books do a very good job of preparing kids and explaining to them the steps that they really should take when they're being bullied - in person or online as now kids have that whole other area of cyber-bullying to contend with as well.

Fair praise to Jeremy Vine for what he wrote, I just wish it helped in my case too but sadly it doesn't.

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