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Monday, 14 November 2011

My Brief Career As A Bully

Normally, I don't pay much attention to those accepted theories that attempt to explain the behaviour patterns in people. I always feel that, however much credence popular opinion gives them, they are always far too keen to generalise; to put people into groups. Not to mention, their tendency to overthink things. I mean, sometimes people do bad things because they're unpleasant people who like doing bad things; there's no deeper explanation than that.

I will concede, however, that in some cases, the theories can be correct. Take 'bullying is a cycle', for instance. Whilst I am convinced that many people terrorise those weaker than themselves purely because they can, there are instances of it happening as a means of 'paying on' the pain and suffering; like my brief and somewhat anti-climactic career as a bully.

As a child I was beaten often by my parents and by other children. I could live with it, for the most part, and indeed the occurrences would be forgotten almost as soon as they were over. They were just one of those things; a part of life. On one occasion though, and I don't know why it happened, I decided that I was going to beat up someone else. It wasn't an emotional response; I wasn't overly upset or not thinking straight. I simply decided, on a whim, that I was going to find someone I was confident I could take, and I was going to beat them up.

Of course, being me, I enlisted help. My cousin was to be my wingman, as it were, and we would beat up our unfortunate victim together. This served 2 purposes; the first was that it meant I was less exposed should my victim fight back, and secondly I was convinced that this would make me seem cooler than I really was in the eyes of my cousin. The sad part was, I was right; he got very excited at the prospect.

We chose our victim and set about luring him to a place where we could beat him up in private. It was all very businesslike on our part; not in any way a damaged person lashing out in a rage, but rather a totally cold, pre-meditated assault. Quite scary to look back at, to be honest. Anyway, we chose a young lad who was maybe a year younger than us, who had been an occasional hanger on to our little group but not by any stretch one of our 'friends'. He was quite a shy lad, very nervous, (a lot like myself, had I been honest, though I was better at hiding it than he was, at least back then) and we knew he would probably go along with whatever we said. And we were right.

Here's the thing though. We forgot. We forgot why we lured him to the secluded spot in the woods. We forgot why we had brought only him and none of the rest of the group. We forgot, because we had fun. We messed around, we played games, we had a laugh; what started as us luring him into a sense of security turned into us all having a bloody good afternoon. Then, when it started getting dark, we headed home.

It was when we left the woods and got back out onto the streets that the thought popped into my head... "If you don't kick his head in now, you've missed your chance". Just like that, and despite the pleasantness of the afternoon up until that point, a switch went in my head; I nudged my cousin and pointed at the kid. He nodded and, completely without hesitation, smacked him in the face, then I ran at him and kicked him in the back. We both laughed and the kid started crying. Then he said...

"Why are you doing this? I thought we you were my friends."

Totally guileless, totally without any attempt to look cool or save face; he just looked at us like a kicked puppy, heart on his sleeve. Something inside me shriveled up right in that moment. I'd like to say we stopped at that point. I'd like to say we realised we were in the wrong, apologised and backed off. I can't though, because we didn't. My cousin went back in for another go and, while I didn't lay any more blows I kept hurling abuse, telling him how much we hated him and we had never been his friends; all the while hating myself, but not being able to stop for fear of losing face in front of my cousin.

When he got tired of hitting the kid, we watched him run off up the street, sobbing, and I could have cried myself; until my cousin started on about how cool that had been and I felt a swelling of pride. Yes, all it took was a brief moment of someone saying I was cool and my conscience retreated back into it's shell. I didn't spare that poor kid another thought for the rest of the day. That night was another matter entirely though. The tossing, the turning, the inability to sleep for hours and then the nightmares when I did; it was clear that as cold and uncaring as I was capable of being in the moment, my conscience was never going to let me get away with that kind of behaviour. Some part of me knew how wrong my actions had been, and was damn sure going to drive the point home.

I never did apologise to that kid. Not because I didn't want to, but because he would never come near me again. He'd cross the road to avoid me, and I'd see that look of fear in his eyes that I'm sure was in mine whenever I saw one of my tormentors coming. Truth be told, I didn't deserve anything else.

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