Cyber-bullies, playground bullies, workplace bullies, gay-bashing bullies, celebrity bullies . . .
It appears there’s more ‘bullish’ behaviour in society today than in many pedigree herds of cattle.
During our lifetimes, we’ll inevitably encounter physical or psychological bullying.
Bosses bully staff.
Big fellahs bully small fellahs.
Ambitious workmates (male and female) bully people they see as rivals for promotion.
Politicians and other people in high office bully us through baffling legislation, laws, rules and punitive taxes.
So what can we do about it?
Well, most people do nothing – for one simple reason; the fear of reprisals.
Those reprisals can take many forms – whether it’s from the swaggering, fat-bellied, loudmouthed individual in a vest who shows off his tattoos or from a large organisation that tries to blind us with ‘legalese’ and jargon in order to steamroller us into submission.
It’s happened to all of us – and here’s the proof.
Everyone used to get their dustbins emptied once a week, a service we paid for out of our council tax.
Then we were asked to recycle various items like bottles, cans, newspapers etc and given boxes of various colours in which to place them for collection. Fair enough.
But once we started doing that regularly (some might say we were doing the council’s job), without any consultation, we were told our weekly collections of rubbish were suddenly changing to fortnightly.
It wasn’t up for debate. The council spoke and we had to obey them.
And, idiots that we are, we meekly submitted to accepting that our rubbish collections would be reduced by 50%, even though we wouldn’t get a similar reduction in our council tax – in fact, it increases every year!
What do we do about it? Absolutely nothing! We prefer to remain the silent victims of bullying by the faceless men and women in the Town Hall.
I won’t generalise about schools today, although we’ve all read desperately sad stories in the newspapers about children who have been bullied so relentlessly by their wicked classmates they saw suicide as the only escape.
When I was in school, if you happened to be slight of build or wore glasses or looked ‘different’, you would get picked on. I wasn’t what you’d call an Arnold Schwarzenegger clone – although to be fair, whenever we broke up for the holidays, I’d always say to my teachers “I’ll be back!” – a remark which made me a sort of ‘End-of Term-inator’.
Looking back, I must have been a right nutter, because I had no fear of bullies and would stand up for myself and the weaker kids.
I got into scrapes. So many, in fact, that when I’m asked what qualifications I left school with, my answer is “Just the one; a Black Belt” (to hold my trousers up, of course)!
In the business of show in which I make what is laughingly called a living, you meet bullies.
On stage or off, a comedian is always working; running through routines and mulling over whether a new piece might possibly alienate part of the audience at the next gig.
I think this awareness of other people’s sensitivities prevents us from becoming bullies ourselves and helps us suss out those in powerful positions who, purely for their own amusement, love to intimidate or humiliate others.
Since the days of the court jester, it’s been the job of the comedian to prick the balloon of pomposity and, should it be warranted, put the great and the good who lord it over us a little bit too smugly, in their place.
If, through my comedy I can have a sharply-pointed dig at overbearing bullies (without coming across as one myself) and make them think they should rein-in their unacceptable behaviour and start treating people with more respect, I’m continuing the work I did back when I was a lad, standing-up to the school bullies.