Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bullying - Lam Chun Chew

I read an article in about a rather alien phenomenon for me called cyber bullying. Some examples of such cyber bullying listed were: Sending anonymous hate mail and insulting text messages, vandalising blogs, and forwarding to other people pictures taken of classmates in toilets.

I think this problem is quite universal. Right from school boy bullying, which we experienced from our younger days, up to big nations bullying smaller ones in world arena, the mode is the same – taking on the weaker ones. This dastardly immoral act even led to many students taking their own lives in Japan. The educational authorities there are wringing their hands in despair, and unable to tackle such problems effectively. In Singapore, I think parents are more assertive and our education authorities are quick to act. Hence bullying problems here are less severe. For this topic, I can only speak for myself.

During my primary school days, I too feared bullies, because I was by nature a timid fellow. But one thing was towards my advantage. I was unusually tall for my age. I was told by teachers to sit at the back of the class or stood last in a row. Still, there were children who tried to bully me when I was alone. Being a loner put me at a serious disadvantage.

One day when I was in Primary one, in Serangoon English School, I was standing on top of a slope when someone me gave a hefty shove from behind, causing me to roll down to the field. I didn’t even know who did it, but heard a group of boys laughing away. I just let the matter rest.

Even in the kampong, I wasn’t spared. A group of kampong boys, usually in threes would wait for me at a kampong path, some distance away from my home. They laid an ambush, stones in hand, and when I appeared alone, they would taunt me and threw the stones in my direction. Again, I think because of my height, these boys dared not physically handle me. After some time they gave up when I put up a false front, as though I was not afraid of them.

I remember another incident which happened just before I left the primary school, when the school holidays were about to begin. There was no lesson, and everyone was in holiday mood. Then there was this short mischievous boy in the class (he later became an RAF pilot) suddenly decided to shove me and threw me off-balance, without any rhyme or reason, just trying to create problems. I saw him coming and before he could do something I gave him counter push. He fell instead. I was surprised of my own strength, probably due to tree climbing and my unusual height.

But, generally, there was little bully in my school, simply because our principal was an ex British Army officer who would not tolerate any breakdown of discipline. Luckily the shoving incident was not reported, otherwise the principal would hang us onto the first tree he found.

One day after a swimming session, my uncle and I were travelling on board a bus heading home. It was crowded, and as I was alighting, a huge guy shoved me purposely near the doorsteps and acted as though he had the right of way before anyone. I lost my balance and nearly fell. My bespectacled uncle intervened and shouted at that guy: “Hey, what are you doing? You want a fight? Let us settle after going down the bus!” My uncle handed me his Sunday Times and was ready to confront this guy who chickened out on seeing how fierce my uncle was. He quickly walked away. This lesson taught me that if I am right, I should stand firm. My uncle was the type, to take action first, and talk later. This type of action seems reckless, but it works when facing a bully.

My uncle used to lecture me: “Do you know that when I was about your age (eleven years old), I used to travel over Malaya in a train alone, looking for my elder brothers. Basing on my uncle’s advice, it is good to have certain amount aggressiveness and self-confidence. If not, we should do something about it.

Footnote: The writer of this article is my brother Chun Chew, not me. I totally do not subscribe to our uncle's philosophy of aggressiveness and settling issues with the fist. - Lam Chun See


Anonymous said...

Wah you fighter man Chun See! Somehow fighters usually become tamer as they mature!!!!!

I alsko kena bullied in Primary 1 by Primary 2 - no actually a retained student who was supposed to be in Pri 2. I came from a mission school but there were also borders - you can guess which school that was in the Bukit Timah area.

Looking back, this guy was twice my son and I was fat then. I lreant that sometimes in life, if you are marked because someone does not like your face, you are done with man! This guy used his belt with a metal buckle to "fight" me. Today I got a scar on my temple to show proof.

The next time was when we formed "gangs" like those you see on TV program "Shintaro". That must be Primary 5. This guy wanted territory so it was decided that after school we would settle this at a nearby cemetery outside school. I think there was a gathering of about 12 to 15 boys from both camps. But it was a gentlemen fight. Only the 2 leaders were involved. After the fight, the loser shake hands with the winner. No such thing as one group beating up one guy like today. You can guess who won. Looking back, I also learn something that today there is no such thing called gentlemenly fight - one group waylaid and beat up one guy.

I believe when Francis Thomas was the principal of St Andrews School at Woodsville, anybody wanted to settle score with his opponent was given a pair of gloves and put into the boxing ring. This went on thru the mid-1970s. After the fight, both boys were recruited into the school rugby team. RI stopped the practice by 1965 - the person who last fought was none other than the son of Philip Liau, the school principal.

Lam Chun See said...

Pls note. The writer of this article is my brother Chun Chew, not me. I totally do not subscribe to our uncle's philosophy of aggressiveness and settling issues with the fist.

Anonymous said...

I read a very interesting book sometime back. The author was so sick of being bullied in school that he decided to do something about it. He took up body building, judo, and various martial arts just to over-protect himself. Many thought that this fellow had gone crazy, but it worked. He found lesser and lesser boys came to challenge him. In time to come not even one dare to lift a 'feather' against him.

My younger brother David believes in this self defence principle against bullies. Being very protective for his youngest brother, he physically fought them after school and the bullying stopped. Now he deploys the same tactics for his sons - all learning 'weng choon'(a chinese martial art famous for fist fighting) from a very young age. The funny thing is no bullies ever lay a hand on his sons, who attend an Aussie school, where bullying is rampant. One day I playfully tried out on his youngest son by punching agaist his fist. Ouch!... I thought I punched into a piece of cast-iron. Lastly I would like to quote from my primary teacher who told us: "Believe in the law of the jungle - it always prevails", and that is the fittest survives.

Victor said...

Wah, Chun See. Your post even got disclaimer. Haha.

Anonymous said...

If cyber bullying is anonymous, then i'd say they, the bullies, are real chickens. At least in our days, bullying was done in person! But bullies seldom had balls anyway. They usually acted in groups--security in numbers. I remember only one lanky Indian chap who bullied me in primary school. He was mischievious and all. One day, I'd had enough of all the nonsense, and yes, adopted your uncle's stance. Only thing was it was not outside the bus. It was at the far end of the school field, where most "problems are settled"--and new ones begin. We showed up, with no supporters, and the fist fight was brief. I just remember vaguely one punch that found its target, that scrawny chest. Must have knocked the wind out of him. Never bothered me again.

Anonymous said...

fighting fit - cheers to you for taking action - You are right. Bullies operate in numbers to coerce the victim(s) into submission, but most of them are actually cowards. I would relate an incident to prove my point. There was a group of ruffians in my kampong who liked to bully outsiders coming into our village. Should a passing motorist (along Lorong Chuan, near our village) offended them in one way or another, the whole gang would road-blocked and set upon him. One morning, a couple of detectives raided their gambling hideout. Guess what happened? The whole lot of scums scattered like cock-roaches in various directions. One fleeing rascal dashed across the road, like seeing a ghost in broad daylight, sprinted right into our house in record time, body shaking with fear, and hid under my bed! If they were not cowards, then what should we call them?

Anonymous said...

Of course, thinking back, I know violence wasn't the solution. But we were kids. Also, I lost my alliance with a bigger "brother" at that time, who used to offer protection from bullies, so I was on my own. Therefore, when bullies showed up again outside, I had to stand for myself. Running from them would just make them more brazen. There's only so much stealing of water bottles (we called them beakers then), kicking of our white Bata shoes (they were canvas and we had to wash them ourselves) that a boy of 11-12 could take. Push him over the edge and those techniques from old Bruce Lee movies will be put into use.

Anonymous said...

fighting fit - We are law-bidding citizens who do not like violence in the least. As we Chinese use to say: 'if someone climbs on top of our heads and shit'. Hitting back is only natural, remembering that even a dog forced into a corner would bite back. Do not under-rate an angry man who hit back. The bully may regret his provocation.

Victor said...

There is also another Chinese saying that goes something like "revenge and counter-revenge, when will it all end?" Live and let live. Reporting the bullies to the school authorities or Ministry of Education should be the right thing to do nowadays.

Tom said...

Tom said...
I agree with Zen,I dont like bullies either because they use to hit me at school,but I alway stood up to them, there were times Icame out second best and other times I would beat one of them in a fight and we would shake hands after it. What Peter had said is true , these days you get three or four lads going after one guy that is very cowardly.

Anonymous said...

As I said before, in the eyes of the law, you have to be beaten up before the police takes action, just being threatened deserved only a recorded statement from the authority. Actually it is up to the victim whether to physically defend himself or to be assaulted and report to the police later. Such incidents are quite common involving road bullies (motorists) in Singapore. My former boss who kept a wooden baton in his car verified my point.