February 1, 2014

Bullying for dummies

It's particularly hard to stand up against bullies when all your friends desert you. But that doesn't mean you should stop trying

"I don't care how you steal the chocolates as long as you steal them" © Getty Images

It isn't easy being a bully. People think it's just a matter of looking tough or finding imaginative ways to hurt people before stealing their lollipop, but there's a lot more to it. For a start, a lot of a bully's time is taken up with PR. A bully's reputation should precede him; otherwise he has to establish his credentials every time he meets a new kid, which can be very time-consuming, not to say wearing on the knuckles.

In fact, the very best bullies are so skilled at the PR side of things, they can convince you that not only is it inevitable that you will be bullied by them, but that being bullied by them is perfectly fair and reasonable, if only you'd stop to think about it.

I can still remember our old school bully Barry's reasoning on the matter. His argument was that since his father was an investment banker, our lunch money was the product of a vibrant economy that Barry's father had helped to create, so for Barry to confiscate our lunch money was just a more equitable way of distributing the nation's wealth, and if we had a problem with that, we could take it up with his big fat fist.

As well as PR, bullying is also about power. The work can be varied. A bully might be engaged in stealing sweets from first-graders, snatching handbags from little old ladies, or even demolishing the entire organisational and financial framework of a global sport. Some of these things are legal, some of them aren't, but they all have one thing in common: the short-term application of overwhelming power to obtain an advantage.

But while an understanding of the bullying arts can help you acquire a greater appreciation of the skills involved, on the whole, most of us would prefer not to be bullied. So how do we deal with it when it happens?

Well, you can denounce the bullies to the authorities. Of course, if they are the authorities, this approach is unlikely to succeed. You can try to ignore them, although that is hard to pull off when they are punching you in the kidneys and extracting your income.

In the end, most people - and most cricket boards - fall back on the less than satisfactory approach of putting a brave face on it. You manage a weak smile, say thank you to the bully for not bruising your other eye and trot off back to class.

It's particularly hard to stand up against bullying when all your friends desert you. Before lunch at the latest ICC meeting, there was a magnificent group of seven determined to resist. During the break they were cornered and picked off one by one until by the time they trooped in from the playground, there was just Zaka Brynner, Haroon McQueen and the other one whose name escapes me.

Still, just because it's hard, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. One or two influential cricket folk who should know better have responded to this shamefully blatant cricket putsch by offering a weary shrug and declaring that this is just the way of the world: the rich get richer, the powerful use their power to become more powerful, little old ladies get bashed on the head on their way home from the post office. What can you do?

Well you can start by saying that it is wrong. Loudly, repeatedly, and to the point of becoming boring. In fact, anyone who cares about cricket should contact their board right now, by email, carrier pigeon, letter, ouija board, brown envelope, or whatever it takes to get through to them. You should point out that bullies never prosper, and that even if they do prosper, they won't be allowed to enjoy their prosperity in peace.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here