By Michael John Dennis, Guest Blogger for 2020socialjustice
I can only tell you of my own experience, over most of my life, at the sharp end of bullying – group bullying, family bullying, religious bullying, social bullying, workplace bullying, bullying within the LGBTI community, and within the commercial gay scene in Dublin.
I now live in the UK but was raised an only child in rural Ireland during the 1970s and 80s, where the Catholic Church had a long history of being very powerful and exercising a stranglehold on all aspects of society.
I grew up being silenced, and for a very long time turned sharply inward.
Bullying has diminished my life
I have had more than twenty years of workplace bullying in supermarkets – for being gay; for wanting to get out of supermarkets; for wanting to be a flight attendant. This was on top of being bullied at school for wanting to join the Irish Air Corps and become a pilot. I was openly mocked and seen to have mental health issues for wanting things that were not what “everyone else” wanted for me. Bullying has diminished my life, my opportunities for education, my mental health, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
I am not allowed to be a person in my own right. Everything I am, or say, or do, in every way, on every level, and every issue, is judged as wrong. I have learned to be compliant to keep the peace, and dare not think for myself any more, lest it attracts disapproval and creates conflict. It is far easier to “know my place” – below everyone else, never equal.
Given all I have suffered at the hands of bullies, I make no apologies for coming across as “a bitter and twisted old queen” towards everyone who failed to protect me and joined in the feeding frenzy, not even bothering to see what was going on.
Bullies always win
In some ways I admire the part played by Joan Collins as Alexis in Dynasty; the nasty and evil super-bitch, determined to trample on everyone to have wealth and power and protect her children’s inheritance.I might have succeeded in things I have tried to do if it had been on merits alone, but the bullies were determined. It seems that bullies always win and get away with it because bullying is socially accepted. It can be a stepping stone to personal gain and success. The victim is blamed, and continues to suffer on a daily basis, which is morally unacceptable.
It is not currently possible to get justice, even in cases of sustained and proven bullying. In many countries – the US, Canada, Ireland, UK, Australia, New Zealand – the law tacitly favours bullies, and political leaders do not have the courage to tackle this issue, and never will unless one of their loved ones loses their life to bullycide.
Tipping the balance towards justice
Even though many things have now been closed to me because of bullying, I do not want future generations to have to endure the living hell I have. I also want to live out the rest of my life in relative security and peace of mind.
One possible solution could be to make bullying a criminal offence, with provision against false or unfounded allegations. I think the police must be involved from the outset and should treat bullying in the same way as rape or first degree murder, because it is of vital importance for a person’s future potential.
In the meantime
I hate having to say this but I think that until we, as a society, find better ways to tackle bullying we have to help victims learn to accept it, and put up with it, to toughen up, be pragmatic, because nothing can be done about this problem in the short term. I have heard stories about gay teens being bullied in schools in the UK and Ireland, which is heartbreaking, and also shocking, given all the anti-bullying laws which clearly are not working
We have to bully-proof individuals until we can radically alter society.
By Michael John Dennis, Guest Blogger
Michael grew up in Ireland and currently lives in the UK. Despite his personal experience of bullying within the Catholic Church (among other contexts) he is a devout Catholic. He wants to encourage discussion of bullying within the Church and is committed to standing up for his LGBTI community wherever he is. Being silenced as a child has motivated him to speak out, and perhaps start his own blog or write his memoirs. His employment goal is to work with an airline, even though he was bullied out of his dream of being a pilot as a young boy.
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