I read an article recently on the false myth of catharsis. Most of us believe that if you’re pissed off and you go hit something … or someone … then you’ll feel better. I tried the trick while doing taebo last week, and pretended I was punching and kicking a special someone’s face. Unfortunately, the face would disappear just before I hit it, so either I didn’t really want to hit, or I have really bad aim.

We’ve also been told that bullies usually have deep seated problems, and that they lash out at others to hide their fear and need to be loved. If we would just reach out and hug them, they’d be fixed in a jiffy.

Uh huh. I dare you to hug the next cop that waves a truncheon at you. I guarantee it doesn’t end up  like that cop story in the first Chicken Soup.

Truth is … I have no clue on the anatomy of bullies. I think some people just like to see others hurt. You can’t explain the teenage boy who tortures cats with Freud. I’m sure it has nothing to do with his missing dad, his sex starved mum, or his puppy. Unless of course he thinks a cat is his mum. Or vice versa. It’s more likely the boy just likes to torture cats.

What about the guy or girl who gets rejected then tells the girl, ‘No one would want you anyway. You’re fat and ugly b***h.‘ Never mind that he clearly wanted her not five seconds before. Isn’t that simply spreading out his pain?

It’s the same with a battering wife or husband. You could say he … or she … is confused by culture, doing what he’s expected to do, showing love in some twisted way, trying to exercise control … and all that could be true. But a part of him … or her … just likes the violence.

A lot of times it’s more about lashing out. You’re angry and hurt and pissed off and this person just strays into your path asking to be kicked, so you kick. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes you consciously hurt one person to indirectly hurt the one they love. It’s not right, but it happens, especially during divorce and custody battles.

Which brings us to the case of real bullying, the deliberate, orchestrated kind that is planned and bred like some sick habit. It starts with grabbing the nerdy kid’s lunch money. It may be fun the first time. You feel really big and get an extra ice cream, but when you start stalking the kid and sniffing him out as he tries to sneak past you, it becomes something else.

A few months back, there was a trend on Kenyan Twitter called #MonoTasks. It described the hell that Form One kids go through as they meet the real world. Some of the bullying is harmless at the physical level. Sometimes the bigger kids just take your food and mess with your mind. Sometimes they humiliate you by making you always walk on the left [or right] side of a senior.

Sometimes, the cruelty is silly – almost funny, like when big kids play ‘One green mono standing on the wall/pool/bridge’ and when it gets to the part where one green mono should accidentally fall, the mono in question has to either get hit by a stone, fall off the bridge, or jump into the pool. No, you’re not evil because you laughed.

But sometimes, the bullying can get sinister. If you’re asked to scoop water from one bucket into another using a fork, to get change for a fifty cent coin, or to spell out a whistled tune using vernacular alphabet, you might be tempted to laugh too. But if you fail, you will either be robbed or beaten within an inch of your life. If you happen to be pretty or attractive, you may find your jam a whole lot worse.

A lot of people want their kids to go through this. They think it toughens them up and prepares for the real world. After all, we’ve all had an overbearing boss, and even the most successful businessman has been bullied by a traffic cop. That’s just the way life is. Plus, in a  world where A’s get hired by C’s and B’s work for the government, being bullied might be the push that makes you the next Bill Gates.

It reminds me of an episode in ER where Elizabeth Chorday accidentally OD’s a patient and almost kills him. She’s an excellent British surgeon with decades of experience, but she’s forced to rewind her internship to get American papers, and in her exhausted, half-drunk-intern state, she damages a patient.

When she faces the disciplinary committee, she explains the horrors of internship and suggests they scrap it completely. The doctors laugh her off. After all, they all survived internship without killing anyone, so everyone should suffer just like they did. They prefer to forgive her and simply cover up the mistake.

Monolization is a little like that. We all tut-tut when a really bad case gets somebody’s baby killed, but for the most part, we feel a little beating makes us stronger. And as for confronting bullies, kids who rat out seniors are better off transferring. To a day school. A rich day school. Preferably, one with GCE.

Bullies come in many shapes and sizes, from the cheerleaders who bully the chess nerds to the sorority and fraternity pledges, makangas, and dirty cops. I’ve seen them taken on lots of times, and you might feel a litty bitty glow about defending yourself, but it makes little or no difference in the long run. Unless of course you believe in kharma … or know what happened to this guy when the cops were done with him. We all enjoyed the show and praised his balls on Twitter, but after beating up a traffic cop and going on the news, I’m pretty sure he’s missing vital body parts.

So then, how do you deal with bullies? Do you simply serve your time and hope you don’t die? After all, you’re only a mono for a year. The next year, you get your revenge on the new kids, and no, it doesn’t matter that they’re not the ones that bullied you.

If you’re bullied at work, do you simply get a new job? Why stand up to the boss if he’ll just move on and bully someone else? Do you sit and quietly take it then grow up, make millions, and call them to gloat on Jenny Jones?

71 thoughts on “Is it ever worth fighting a bully?

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