Bullying – Intimidation at work or at school
Yesterday my wife, who is president of the OPP (Parents Participation Organisation at our daughter’s school), asked me to do the opening presentation for a play by Piperni Spectacles on bullying. (Actually she is also her work’s Union’s President… Hmmm… I sense a trend here!) Since besides being Citizen Clown I am also a professional speaker, I happily agreed and proceeded accordingly.
In my pockets were two foam nose and my Ipod for taking pictures, as my primary objective is always to spread humor as much as possible! I should have brought my camera though… Lesson #1 Bring a camera, Check!
So I went on the internet and did some research on the Piperni theater company, I was very impressed! Remember what I wrote on my Becoming a Clown post? Well I feel Mr Piperni is one the dreamers who believes that not only we can think outside of the box, we can also live there too. For the last 23 years he has done amazing work creating plays on social issues for schools, associations and corporations, educating the masses as well as the bosses. I was honored to meet him.
When I entered the school auditorium I also had the pleasure to encounter one of my new facebook friend which I hadn’t met yet. I love Facebook for this! Smiling Violaine was very appreciative of my clowning in Guatemala. Being a fellow Montréal Sud-Ouest resident she was more than enthusiastic to share her thoughts with me. Later the school’s Principal Mr Neveu officially presented her to me as Madame Cousineau, Commissaire CSDM and representative of our neighborhood’s local committee! I had just met her simply as Violaine. That’s the way I am.
Madame Cousineau, or Violaine, proposed with a twinkle in her eyes that I put on my nose during my introduction…. I hadn’t planned on this as I felt it would distract from the main focus of the event, bullying, so I wasn’t inclined to do it. And yet, on the spur of the moment I did put it on very shortly. It felt like the right thing to do! Sorry Violaine, you were right! Lesson #2 Listen to what the people want. Check!
From being hurt to loving all around.
As the light went down and the audience applauded, I came up to present the OPP and the play. The auditorium was filled with attentive moms and dads and their sons and daughters. I was touched by their presence. We had a very appreciative crowd.
As I started to get into the importance of understanding what bullying is, I suddenly remembered how much I was bullyed when I was in school. Not that I had forgotten, but I never gave it a second thought. It just was what it was, until now! I was now faced with a choice: talking about it or not? To inspire people that you can grow out of it, as I became a loving clown after all those aches and pains? Or should I avoid the whole thing? Well, what do you think happened next? I put my red nose on and shared that as a child I was bullyed and that today I am a clown, and that you also can get out of it! I didn’t want the presentation to be about me so I kept it very short and it felt a bit awkward; but now as I think of it, I could have given more details, showing how hurtful and damaging bullying can be. Lesson #3 Follow the moment. Check!
I remember bullying!
Yes, bullying, I remember the anguish, even the panic attacks I later had on University campus. I never felt any good with any crowd, or enclosed space. My five years of college where hellish as I became the butt of everyone’s joke. Not only of my classmates but, at some point, the whole school. I remember crying at my mother’s bedside that I didn’t want to go to school the next morning. Spitballs, being shoved around and cornered, nicknames and verbal insults… no wonder gym and swimming classes were my worst nightmares.
On one occasion as I asked for help at the Principal’s office, I was told to ”man up and defend myself’‘. I did! One time I cornered one of my worst offenders in the staircase, and out of nowhere suddenly came my voice and my strength as I held him against the wall. He was scared! Success! But then, I apologized for my use of force and told him that it wasn’t even my idea. Well that basically undid what just happened… I learned there and then that honesty isn’t the best policy!
So how did it stop? Well, in my last year of college, I started to smoke and play cards. I distanced myself from the few friends I had and started to hang out with the smokers. We were cool, and sadly, it actually worked. I was less and less hassled and became a social smoker. I couldn’t handle any crowd without a ciggy in my hands. Luckily weed made me so dizzy I would puke right away, so beer became my only escapist drug. This is also when I started to hang out in coffee shops, writing and smoking until the wee hours of the morning. To this day, forty years later, my journal is still my best friend.
Tears of a Humanitarian Clown
Wow! I had forgotten all those feelings and stories. As I said to my loving Clown family in Guatemala, I’ve been to hell and back. I guess that was the unexpected part of my mission, to heal my fears of crowds and friendships. Those stories are yet for other posts in the coming months.
Friedrich Nietzsche is the man behind the quote ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger‘. All these hurt feelings are my strengths today. When I see someone’s behavior I am always aware of the hurt that might have brought it forward. When I feel someone’s pain or confusion, I use my compassion and empathy, not from my mind, but from my scars. I know where they’re coming from, and hope I can bring them back, hand in hand, in our joyous reality.