I remember what happened as if it were yesterday. I was running for my life. I knew he was right behind me and would catch me. I felt like an animal being hunted. I couldn't run faster; I was scared and out of breathe. He had only one thing in mind, which was to get me — again!
I felt humiliated and ashamed of myself as I ran. Two kids beat me up almost every day after school. There was nothing I could do. No one would stop it. Most of the adults said boys will be boys, and didn’t think my problem was worth their attention.
He caught me from behind, pulling me backward to the hard ground. My instincts were to try to protect myself from being hurt, and not to fight back. Fighting back would only make him angry and then he might really hurt me, like his brother did when he knocked out my front teeth with a rock the year before, and before that when he himself purposely ran into me with his bike. I ended up in the hospital that time with a serious head injury.
He pinned me down with his knees on my chest. Sitting on top of me, he began punching my face. I attempted to cover my face with my hands; that’s all I could do. I felt so helpless!
All of a sudden, I felt a very sharp pain in my back as if I had stabbed with a hot needle. I jumped up without thinking, yelling in agony. A bee had stung me! I stood there for a moment in shock, trying to reach the wounded area with my hand. Then I remembered what was happening just moments before the sting, and I felt an overwhelming sense of fear and dejection. But it suddenly ended when I realized that Danny, the bully who, along with his brother, had plagued me most of the way through elementary school, wasn't beating me up. In fact, he lay stunned on his back many feet away, where I had thrown him when I got stung.
I looked down at him and felt a sudden surge of power. I realized at that moment that I was strong and that I had let this bully beat me up. It was an awe-inspiring feeling that changed my life from that time on. Danny never bothered me again.
I still remember that day clearly. I never wanted to fight and I wasn't a fast runner, so I let myself be beat up. I was conditioned to be a victim and this mentality encouraged bullies like Danny to pick on me. I only wish then that I had more alternatives than running away or fighting. Perhaps, looking back on it now, I could have used my brain to prevent myself from being bullied. Perhaps I could have tried to make friends with Danny and his brother or tried to reason with them. Maybe I could have called someone in authority to help me, or used my creative imagination by saying that my uncle was a policeman or that I had an infectious disease and that they would get it if they came into contact with me. Maybe I could have used humor and made them laugh or perhaps I really could have stood up to them. It's hard to know what would have worked. But anything my creative imagination could have thought up would have been better than all the beatings I took.
It wasn’t until many years later that I learned how to defend myself both mentally and physically in a unique martial arts training class. But it was too late for what happened to me in my youth. The most important thing I learned from this experience of being bullied was that bullying was a learned behavior, that both the bully and the person being picked on were victims of conditioning. I realized that this was the key to understanding human conflict, that l conditioning – mentally, emotionally and physically – was at the root of it, that it drove people to act out habitual roles that were handed down to them by their parents and society in general. I knew then that I had to do something about this for it was more than just my experience alone, that it was the whole of humanity’s experience, that this conditioning was the foundation of our discord. So I started to write about it starting with my own story of being bullied.
I have now written many books, curricula and workbooks for adults who live or work with young people so that they can help young people to avoid the torment I experienced early on in life with this abusive behavior called “playground bullying”. I originally thought when I wrote the book Why Is Everybody Always Picking On Me? A Guide to Handling Bullies for young people that this was all there was to it. But then I began to think about it and realized that bullying had many faces, so to speak. I then wrote Why Is Everybody Always Picking On Us? Understanding the Roots of Prejudice. This then lead to my creating curricula on what I now think is a full picture of all the levels of bullying –– from the playground to the battlefield –– for I now realize that what starts out on the playground with individual bullying is the starting point for group bullying called war –– that the very structure and nature of playground bullying is the same as in international conflict. And that if we are serious about preventing more international conflict we need to educate our children to understand and resolve it on the playground – where bullying behavior begins. And I don’t mean just a remedial superficial approach that we are attempting today, if we are even doing that much. Preventing, resolving and managing bullying behavior is an education in itself just as we teach math or history or science; it is a subject that takes time to comprehend and it is this time that is absolutely necessary to give in order to end this type of abusive behavior in our lives, for it is resolvable!
Youth Peace Literacy was started in order to educate young people about the roots of conflict as manifested in bullying behavior. In order to accomplish this goal we offer our books online for free to young people and adults, in the hopes that each will benefit greatly and be able to see into the conflict around them. We also offer specialized training for adults that live or work with children. The curricula and workbooks we have developed address the full range of the bully/victim cycle, so young people can become literate in peace, and can gain the skills and understanding to resolve conflict peacefully – from the playground to the battlefield.