I used to walk to high school. It took half an hour at teenager pace and required a courageous traverse across a playing field populated by thugs from a nearby comprehensive.
Just a little background for those unfamiliar with the class system that forms the skeleton of British culture. Rich kids go to the posh grammar schools and end up at university while the working classes send their kids to the state comprehensive schools. Not out of choice but necessity. Natural tribalism is readily expressed in the youth as a consequence of this unfair inequality.
My parents leveraged their status as local pastors to get me into the posh school meaning I had to run the gauntlet of the disaffected looking for an easy mark.
My recollection of these encounters was me using my smarts and gift of the gab as a defence against the bullying tactics. My chat, for the most part, worked. Apparently being able to speak their language knocks the bully off guard. Sure any loose change I might have carried was often part of the exchange but my attempt to identify with my would-be oppressors certainly had an effect.
Looking back I am grateful to those anonymous hoodlums. It was the start of my learning to fit into almost any crowd and so avoid the worst of being seen as different. This made life easier whilst I built self-confidence and learned to find my voice.
In a series of excellent articles, Robert Reich reflects on the global bullying phenomenon. He calls out Putin, Trump, right-wing nationalists, bigoted TV pundits, politicians, misogynists, and billionaires who use their money to manipulate. He connects these individuals and tropes as abusers of power and concludes that abuse encourages other abuses so standing up against all forms of bullying and brutality – is essential to preserving a civil society.
He is right.
There was no freedom of movement across that playing field on my way home from school, no matter the life lessons I learned. I like to think that I stood up to them in my own way, hoodwinking them out of giving me a beating. It was a puny attempt that would not have stopped them from picking on the next hapless kid from my school.
But in the bigger far more critical situation of the modern global bully, every little will help.
Today as an Australian citizen who cast his vote with fingers crossed that it would be enough to keep the local labour party member in parliament and that nationally the Liberal-National coalition bullies would get a hiding, I am feeling like I just talked my way out of an uncomfortable encounter.
The electorate came to its senses.
It rejected the conservative coalition who, for a decade, was deaf, dumb, and blind to climate, women, and the disadvantaged whilst waving coal at us, holidaying during a firestorm, and dodging responsibility as all bullies do.
We now have a Labour government but not because we like them—they lost votes too—because they have spent the decade complicit with the hoodlums. They are in power because smart people, especially women, voted for independents. The people stuck it to the bullies and the two major parties have fewer lower house seats than ever before.
The commentary tells us this is seismic and creates the opportunity for a reset on just about everything.
After a decade of boofhead behaviour, we had had enough—the liberal bully oxymoron is no more.
Who knows, they might even be gone forever.
Hero image from photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels