Editor's Notes on Bullying

Wisdom is a result of a happy marriage between intelligence and experience.
© Carl Dow, Editor and Publisher, True North Perspective.
True North Perspective
Vol. 7, No. 16 (318)
Friday18 May 2012

Editor's Notes

I was a bully for ten minutes . . . but never again

On Tuesday 22 May the Ontario Standing Committee on Social Policy will meet at the Ottawa Marriott Hotel for a public hearing on bullying. The specific topic will be provincial anti-bullying laws. Twenty-nine delegations are signed up to speak in 15-minute intervals.

Numerous religious groups have signed up, as well as many individuals.

The topic of bullying has been getting more and more attention in recent years as compared with the past.

I never laid a hand in anger on any of my children, so it was with considerable surprise that my eldest son saw me dispose of a young giant in two blows during an encounter near the corner of Spadina Avenue and College Street in Toronto.

"Dad!" he declared, "Where did you learn to fight like that!"

"The French kids in Lower Town Ottawa and the Orange Irish back on the farm."

In the past one was scorned as a coward, or a squealer, if one sought help from bullies. The mark of coming of age was standing toe-to-toe and slugging it out as in Tom Brown's School Days.

It was into this culture that I was born. My first street fight, believe it or not, was when I was five years old. The leader of the local gang of the peanuts crowd and his lieutenant on Nelson Street in Lower Town, Ottawa, came to beat me up. I was lucky, the boss was coming up the stairs in a bulky leather jacket fit for winter and I was coming down in a light jacket fit for autumn.

I managed to secure his neck, thereby taking control of his breathing and the fight ended shortly thereafter. He went home crying. I became leader of the gang and remained so until we moved away when I was eight.

After a year in hospital, six months in a wheelchair, and two years on crutches, I attended a two room school at the Ottawa intersection of Merivale Road and Clyde Avenue — all bush and country then.

I had to contend with bullies. My father was away in the army. He was built close-to-the-ground, as they say, and I had no doubt but that he would have been powerful enough to put down all the bullies and their fathers, uncles, and cousins too. And there was my grandfather and my uncles, all of them powerful men.

But I knew that calling them in wouldn't help in the long run because they couldn't be there for me all the time. They had their own lives to live.

So I had to stand and fight. The principal of the two room school, Marion Gray, may her soul rest in peace, I knew was on my side but the culture wouldn't allow her to interfere. I had to beat up three of the bullies before I became top dog.

During my last fight I noticed Miss Gray and the other teacher watching from an upstairs window. Miss Gray let the lunch time go an extra ten minutes before she rang the bell for afternoon classes.

The next day, in my position as Number One, I decided to bully a class mate. I did it for about ten minutes and had this empty feeling in my chest. There was no triumph there. Only shame.

Since then I only come to the rescue of the bullied. That makes me feel good and fills my chest with pride.

Meanwhile, because of other combats imposed on me I've learned to finely hone my talent.

I won't bore you with more except to say that recently I was sitting in a chair at the Lafayette, a watering hole in Ottawa's By Town market. A man walked past me on the way to the John and patted my shaven head. He had come from behind and I hadn't seen him coming.

Coming back he was full of himself. A huge man about thirty with a confident smile. He reached out to pat my head. I seized his hand in a Judo hold and brought him down to both his knees.

I said quietly to his astonished face, "I'm not a dog for you to pet! You keep your hands to yourself. Okay?"

With eyes wide and his wrist in acute pain, he said, "Okay." And I gave him a push that set him back on his butt.

All that and I didn't have to lift mine off my chair. So, aside from practical street experience, it makes sense for anyone to take courses in self-defense. It's technique, not bull strength, that counts.

Next week I'll tell you of two women about 20 years of age who I observed severely bullying a boy of about 12 on an Ottawa bus.

I hate bullies with a passion.

Meanwhile, take it easy, but take it.

Looking forward.

Carl Dow
Editor and Publisher
True North Perspective