It turns out that the theme of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week was ‘bystander’ (if you’re at school, you might substitute teacher here because, let’s face it, few can be bothered to intervene) and kids from all over the place have been making anti-bully art. Sadly it’s rather pathetic. Take this nonsense, spotted at the Lowry this weekend: ‘Bullying is like playing with fire. It can hurt.’
This rather sad piece is an invitation to be picked upon. Built around a poem that attempts three perspectives on bullying, if it’s to be believed bullies really hate themselves and what they do and think that it’s not even worth the extra pocket money. This strikes me as rather unlikely.
I’ve always suspected the appeal of being a bully is the kick of being able get other people – people who might otherwise be your peers – to do stuff in response to little more than your physical presence and the force of your personality. Anyone who’s seen a gangster movie knows respect and fear aren’t so far apart. Add to that the sadistic pleasure of causing distress and being a bully might feel quite good, especially if there’s nothing else going on in your life to give you lift. Learning that one of your victims had created a piece of art whining that bullying hurts might give such a bully quite a buzz.
The one thing the artist has probably gotten right is the idea that it’s not worth the extra pocket money. An Economic and Social Research Council study argues that those seeking to explain crime place too little emphasis on pleasure as opposed to gain. It seems that the father of murder victim, Tom ap Rhys Pryce, understands this, so why are the victims of bullying encouraged to produce invitations such as this?