A couple of my young friends have recently been seriously bullied by minor management in their working environments in vain attempts to ‘control’ them. This, unfortunately, appears to be a prevailing culture. For example, employees struggling on low wages are frequently pushed around and manipulated by people of minimal ability who are promoted for that very purpose. Well-meaning nurses and technicians in the NHS have, in recent years, been seriously bullied by their highly paid administrators. Indeed the chief administrator of NHS Lothian was forced into retirement a year or so back over this very issue. Despite the changes in the law, gay people are still getting bullied all over the place, even by people of their own persuasion. People with mental health issues are frequently horribly bullied, and the Scottish legal system does not even protect them in practical terms from the all-too-horrific institutional sexual abuse which is occasionally reported. Meanwhile, vulnerable children are being bullied on the Internet, and immigrants are bullied into slavery.


     I today received an e-mail, 47 years on, from ‘Jacques’ an ultra-bright former fellow pupil at my unusually xenophobic rough-and-tough backstreet grammar school where the scholarly headmaster’s much-dreaded thwackings resounded down the corridor and the second formers took it out on the student teachers (they put one ultra-nice fellow into Moorhaven Mental Hospital in 1960).


       Jacques, a family friend who I’d only remembered as being a bit on the snooty side, quite surprisingly told me that he’d said sorry several years ago in our Old Boys magazine for joining in all the ‘teasing’ I’d been subjected to at school, and which he thought I didn’t deserve at all. That shook me to the core. My nowadays kindly older brother, who’d seriously bullied me at home, apparently out of sibling rivalry since he imagined that I was my father’s favourite son and thought that I was too snotty, advised me some fifteen years later that ‘I’d deserved everything I’d got’. I’d anyway always assumed that there must have been something inherently bad about me. In hindsight, I was probably just ‘too nice’, too honest, and a bit gullible. (In a later message when he was trying to dissuade me from putting this article on my website, Jacques said he thought that I was bullied simply because I was ‘weird’, but maybe the bullying caused my weirdness). I did experience the pleasure of drawing blood when I hit a totally spiteful, mind-torturing pupil ‘Giles’, who is now a, completely unrepentant, eminent professor at Berkeley, in the mouth, but that was after he crushed snails in my blazer pockets and homophobed me. In contrast, Jacques has always held Giles in high regard, since they were best mates.


        My arrogant PE master Mr. ‘Evans’ seemed to encourage the bullying and certainly didn’t prevent it e.g. he poured scorn on me when they threw my trousers up the chimney during gym, and he once made me play on at rugby after another pupil caused lasting injuries by kicking me in the gut. By no means a successful athlete himself, Mr. Evans, who didn’t really look like Jimmy Savile though he did enjoy jumping into the communal bath with the kiddies (I remember my mother being completely shocked when I told her about this), eventually got his after becoming a top national and Olympics athletics administrator, releasing a totally arrogant comment to the press concerning Sebastian Coe when they didn’t let him try for a third Olympic Gold (‘we have no room for sentiment’), and setting upon an unfortunate and highly talented female athlete during a drugs scandal.


        In his second e-mail, Jacques advised me that the reason that I wasn’t so good at sports was that I was so physically uncoordinated. Therefore, Mr. Evans seems to have treated me very dispassionately indeed, e.g. by continuously mocking me, putting me down because of my ineptitude at PE,  and only allowing me to play soccer or rugby in the ‘Muckabouts’. In comparison, he was extremely kind and encouraging to the more athletic students who he coached, at times very successfully. After six years of exclusion, I nevertheless got to play for the school’s rugby second fifteen in my final year, and I played soccer equally successfully for many years after I got to college, scoring a number of for-me-quite-memorable goals. While I might well have falsely judged Mr. Evans in at least one respect, I have disliked people with his attitude and mannerisms ever since, perhaps because of the way he leered down his nose at me. Maybe though, I focus my hate on him, rather than my fellow pupils, who were supposed to be my friends, far too much.


     Maybe the problem does lie with me and the image I project, but bullying has pursued me throughout the whole of my life. A girlfriend bullied me because I was ‘too nice’, my highly normative Ph.D. supervisor and a couple of his acolytes bullied and hounded me for indicating the scientific truth about his apparent academic deficiencies, and I was bullied down my line of command before I retired, as part of a well-versed, more general attitude within some parts of my university, where many of the employees were treated like shit. I was bullied by Fettes Police in the year 2000, when I reported an apparent ring of high class paedophiles to them, after being bullied by Strathclyde Police while they were rewriting my statement as a witness in a criminal case. I have, during the last two or three years, been bullied by at least two employees of NHS Lothian, once in a manner potentially detrimental to my health.


     More recently, I have been seriously bullied and harassed by two multi-phobic members of a local writers’ club, after taking one of them to task for making an anti-feminist remark to a talented female writer.  My health and career were severely damaged by all the early traumatic bullying, and I was seriously bullied by misdirected homophobia, e.g. by close colleagues, during the many years that I remained faithful to my wife.


      While I am occasionally a bit tough on people, I would never wittingly bully anybody unless they were complete despots, since it would be a despicable act of human unkindness. If only all the cowardly bullies would desist, then the world would be a much better place. I have, along the way, acquired a reputation for not taking any shit from anyone, all within the spirit of Christian forgiveness I hope.


     Many more children than we would like to imagine are abused sexually when they are young e.g. by a close relative. I was affected almost as seriously by the way I was psychologically torn apart for no fault of my own; this was much worse than the unwanted groping I experienced and which I also blamed myself for. I consequently lost my self-credibility for the next twenty years or so. I am however by no means the only person who is left with terrible, gut-wrenching problems, including at least one lengthy period of suicidal ideation, as an obvious consequence of inane and unacceptable bullying.


     Jacques suggested in another e-mail that I may be reacting somewhat over-narcissistically, since everybody, including himself, has been badly bullied at some time or other, and that I may simply imagine that I’m being bullied whenever anything goes wrong. He also THINKS that I'm behaving hypocritically by not really showing Christian forgiveness, in this article, to the people who bullied me. 

     You stirred everything up again, Jacques, got to my inner id, and, maybe inadvertently or whatever, caused me lots of fresh angst. I can now recall all sorts of traumatic situations from the previously hidden depths of my memory. The least troubling of them was when you phoned me for all the homework answers and hung up after pouring scorn on me as soon as I'd finished helping you to cheat. My reason for writing this article is to try to protect the next generation of youngsters and disadvantaged people from similar bullying.
     After receiving a more recent version, Jacques seemed to go absolutely spare. Have a happy life, old chap!
     Christian forgiveness can be a difficult thing. Sometimes we need a lifetime in Purgatory to accomplish it.

(My poem ‘The Sprite on Sharpitor’ on my literary home page also addresses the problem of bullying.  My thanks to John Sampson for all his helpful advice.  My thanks also to Thomas and James for reading the article and approving of its general themes.)


A previously deceased ghost, which will haunt me into Purgatory

  © Thomas Hoskyns Leonard, 2013