As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that the “World has grown smaller and smaller.” Before I was twenty, it was uncommon for most folks I knew to have lived in more than one or two different places—often in relatively close proximity to one another.
That’s not to say it didn’t happen; just that it was a rarer thing than it seems to be in the modern day.
In this, I was somewhat an exception, as were my parents and siblings.
I have the distinct impression, anyone looking at me these days, would have a hard time believing I was both a general outsider, and subject of bullying as a child.
Because I spent my young life living in places that were “foreign” to me, it was hard to not be the outsider. Part of the result of being someone coming into the “neighborhoods” in which I ended up living, was that that the people already within them, were “known to” others inside them.
That meant that, unless I was willing to “defend myself.” I was one of a couple types of people typically selected to be “picked on.” Oh, there were others as well. There were those who acted oddly. Those who “looked funny” also tended to be targets, and obviously, there were more. I won’t get into all of them here. You know who you were, and if you were one who harassed them, you know who “they” were in large measure.
I recognize that it can be somewhat a “rite of passage,” to be the bullied or a bully.
It’s also true that somebody can inhabit both positions—I know I did.
It really only happened once that I was the bully, and I got my comeuppance in rapid fashion, a thing, believe it or not, for which I’m most grateful. I was very quickly (and rather violently, though not with too bad a final effect) shown the error of my ways. I realized virtually immediately that in what I was doing, I was an idiot and a bully. It shaped my view of the world around me in some pretty important ways.
For the rest of my childhood where I wasn’t either left alone or in a small circle of friends, I “qualified as” the bullied.
There were two, or perhaps three times in which this seriously manifested itself. Other than that, I was mostly left to my own devices.
For those times when I was the person being bullied though, I have some pretty distinct recollections.
I remember finding different routes from place to place (going to school, making my way home, etcetera). I recall making it so I got places I had to be before a regular time, earlier and later on different days, so people were unable to know when to expect me to be there.
I made it my business to stay away from the places my tormentors might find themselves, and be in places that were both public and innocuous when I was able to do so.
And, as at least some do when singled out, I made myself someone uninteresting, and a person who didn’t generally show the effects of the actions of others.
Most of the time, the result was, those messing with me didn’t find me entertaining, or of value (having money, or doing homework for them or whatever). That meant the “bullying” tapered off over the course of time.
Yes, I do realize I was lucky that my hecklers had short attention spans.
Another important fact is that, in my childhood, there was no publicly available Internet. Social media was not even a interesting concept by that point, much less an actual thing. Heck, we didn’t have plain old email back then. And computers were not a “fixture in” any home. My first friend who had a computer in his home—probably an Apple IIe—was a Japanese Hawai’ian friend (at the time, my best friend), in around 1981. Considering we moved to Hawai’i after my sixteenth birthday, that ought to tell you just how long it was before even personal computers were found in the mainstream at all, much less when they became ubiquitous.
I didn’t own my first personal computer (a TI-99/4A) until 1983 or 1984. My first “white box PC” was in 1986 or 1987. Needless to say, none of these (not even the later ones) had anything like the same sort of connection to the Internet as modern devices. I had a 2400 baud modem on my first PC, and that was considered well ahead of its time.
These days, not only is access to the Internet almost essential for many people, but you can look back a decade or more into their past due to the relative permanence of the things found there (I’ve had “Facebook friends” for that long at least).
This has “extended the reach” of people who would bully and extort others. By way of contrast, things I did were lucky to have been captured in a photo, and those snaps were often long-lost before it would have mattered.
These days, people can find things I said or did twenty years ago and use them against me to attempt to force my compliance or obedience. And sadly, they do—or at least, they attempt so to do.
The unfortunate reality? People will see something others did years ago, and refuse to assume they’re not the same person they were at that time. To make it worse, they’ll not do any due diligence to determine such things either.
The real problem here though, is twofold (at least):
- That people make the idea of bullying of no effect, by virtue of the fact that they allow things to be termed such that are of little importance or concern. I’ll let you decide who those people are.
- That people are willing to agree with others when they berate people for things that either happened decades ago, and/or not in the context in which they appear in the places they’re found, and argue that they imply the unfitness of some person for something in the present moment.
My message to those of you who help to convict others of minor crimes decades after they happen? Make sure there are no potential “skeletons in your proverbial closet” before proceeding. You may be next!
Thanks for reading and may your time be good.