Posted by: daviemacdonald | February 13, 2011

The Schoolyard Bully, Jonny Lang, and Phoebe Prince (R.I.P.)

social and community commentThis post is a journey with first a review of Jonny Lang CD Long Time Coming, which has indeed been a long time coming

In the course of my research of this CD,  I found a song by Jonny Lang  called “Irish Angel”. It is a very sad song and I was intrigued to find out more. It highlights the results of schoolyard bullying.

This is the story of a young Irish girl who was driven to suicide by school bullies. In Australia today we know this is a phenomenon that appears to be gaining some ground and sadly the school authorities in the western world are often too late to act as in this case of Phoebe Prince an Irish American schoolgirl who was driven to suicide at bloody just 15.

Bullying at School was something I also found myself dealing with and those who know me today are somewhat surprised when I relay some of my experiences. They think I was tough and am still strong today.

Unfortunately bullying does not stop at the playground at the end of childhood, nor is it confined to adolescence, but continues to adulthood and to the workplace.

It is a blight across all of society. This is something I rarely talk about because my life has in the main been great.

Me at school, prabably about 7 year old

Me at school, prabably about 7 year old

It hurts us most inside.  The perpetrators are not gender-specific, nor are they confined to lower socio-economic groups in fact in my experience I found that they come from where there is comparative economic  privilege .

I wonder what the ‘criminologist’   finds and what real life working solutions they are ready to provide. Society needs a solution that isn’t is delivered as a piece of esoteric university “mumbo jumbo” but something that ordinary folk can understand. You will recall on reading about me I am no academic just an ordinary person as most of us are.

The playground bully remains a bully waiting for the next victim. However when confronted  most often they run away to mother. In later life as adults once  confronted  turn on the tears and cry foul.  Unfortunately even then it doesn’t always  stop and they will seek revenge , but not necessarily with the one who confronts them but later their bullying manifests itself  with another victim that pops up in their life in the future.

Playground at Sandhurst Road School

Playground at Sandhurst Road School

In the case of  Phoebe Prince the perpetrators  resorted to the use of blogs, Face book and twitter. I said this doesn’t stop at adolescents but continues to adult hood.

Remembering bullying does not have to be physical, the smarter perpetrator now can simply resort to social media to continue their behaviour.

Why ?

They have to be in control and they thrive on it. The dunces amongst us will look on an applaud  either by our in-action or unwitting active involvement.  This happened to me recently  where the blog and twitter were used to denigrate me after extracting myself from a bullying relationship.

Some readers of that blog who knew me but who could not have known or chose not to find out the real circumstances   freely chose to post comments on the blog or on the persons twitter also denigrating me in support of the online “bully”.  They became active bystanders and so encouraging the bully. Not so unlike the pack egging on the bully in the playground.

Article 1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the United Nations in 1948) is All Human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Others include a Senior Executive  in  Australian Public Service  and a University Lecturer .

The bully feels justified in their actions against victims as they can do no wrong in their mind. The victim is ALWAYS the problem, and the bully feels justified in their persecution. This attempted persecution knows no bounds.  I am no academic nor am I a clinical psychologist but I wonder what NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) has to play in this condition .

I believe Bullying comes from envy and  you don’t have to be poor to have envy. Unfortunately as a materialist society where we condone the trappings of wealth (however gained)  ambition of hierarchy and sheer greed  at the expense of others these behaviors will continue grow.

The bully needs to feel dominant. She or he gains attention by showing others how superior they are by their forcefulness. They will project their faults on to others.

The bully is jealous of others who they [secretly] perceive are better than themselves. That is the victim is more calm, more in control, has a  higher status ( not necessarily work related), having more material goods, etc.

The bully feels they are entitled to have these things including others life  partners if it suits their need. Oh yes they have no scruples. You know when you run into one as they will tell you how mad the other party is.

So watch out if they have entered your circle of friends recently. You will know one if they continually blame junior or senior work colleagues , make claims to actions or a life that just doesn’t add up.  They will falsify education, say they have been to countries you know they have never been to but someone in their life has.

Engage them in the conversation on a subject they claim knowledge that maybe by co-incidence a  mirror of yours and  they will switch away has they don’t have enough detail to engage you fully; if you happen to have been to that destination too.

Their reaction to this envy is to suffer a super-ego crisis response  So the Bully Narcissist -person hits out to show they are superior; it is defense by offense; the problem is the other person (the target) does not have to prompt or confront them to be attacked. They will invent false dramas through their false perceptions of reality.

If you try to reason, they will try to bamboozle you with double speak especially if they perceive you to  be not as well-educated.

Sadly I can be easily bamboozled at times 🙂

Best to  walk away but as you do they will claim it was at their doing

A sociologist referring to the case of Phoebe Prince stated “It is all too common to re-target the target so as to minimize or justify the cruelty reaped on her.”

musicOkay now a breather and now to the CD and then to the story of Phoebe Prince as Jonny Lang sings [the sadness of ] My Irish Angel. You will find the rack at the end of The Phoebe Prince Story in this post

Long Time Coming was Jonny Lang’s third or fourth album (reports differ), recorded in 2002 –  he is still just a 22 year old. Previously in the post Crossroads I introduced Lang to you with a link to his first recording I know of “Lie To me” then recorded when just 16 years old.

Jonny Lang, Long Time Coming

This album (showing my years) or CD should be considered a debut for this 22-year-old, who started out as a hotshot teenage guitar prodigy. Teaming with Pink producer Marti Frederiksen, Lang took five years between albums and emerged with a collection of songs predominantly co-written by himself and Frederiksen, moving him well past an image that found him coming off like a Stevie Ray Vaughn imitator with peach fuzz. With this record (CD Jonny Lang brings to the boil incorporated more R&B to his musical style, with his raspy soul singing that is simply gorgeous His voice just hits the spot. The first track featured on his appearance at “Crossroads 2004 Concert” is Give me up. This time I treat you to a more subtle late night indoor rendition.

I just love it.

With just a hint of pop and classic rock we move on to the next track Red light, Here is a promotional video.

Jonny gives us some more rocky pop stuff  with Get What You Give and The One You Got and  we find ourselves  at Touch a huge song brushed with the kind of beats and arrangements you might find on a Justin Timberlake recording, underscored by his weeping guitar play.

“Goodbye Letter” an anthem for all us broken-hearted everywhere. Wow this is a powerful Jonny in full rasping voice

Among the pleasant surprises included are the raucous Highway Diner numbers “To Love Again” and “Happiness and Misery,” My aging ears pick up some harmonica accompaniment by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler Listening to  Dying to live we find shades  of Stevie Wonder.

Then we go to a no frills Home Brand pub folk rock blues country style “Long Time Coming” The CD is nicely finished of with a live track of Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ for the City.” Oh you must listen to just what a versatile talent this Jonny Lang is. WOW.

social and community commentSo to the Phoebe Prince Story

Phoebe Prince was a 15-year-old recent immigrant from Ireland a tiny seaside hamlet in County Clare, who found herself at South Hadley High School, Massachusetts in 2010.

She was the target of a group of 9 high school teens targeted the Irish immigrant until after months of complaints that the bullies weren’t being punished  for statutory rape, violation of civil rights, bodily injury, criminal harassment and stalking she was driven to hang herself

The case has become a rallying point against high school bullying.

Phoebe Prince

Investigations revealed relentless activity directed toward Phoebe designed to humiliate her and to make it impossible for her to remain at school

Her books were routinely knocked out of her hands, items were flung at her, her face was scribbled out of photographs on the school walls, and threatening text messages were sent to her mobile

The focus was drawn to her because she by briefly dated a popular boy at the school. One student later said it felt like the whole school ganged up on her.

On January 14, 2010, after a day of harassment and taunting, followed by a final incident in which a student threw a can at her from a passing car as she walked home from school, Phoebe committed suicide by hanging herself in the stairwell leading to the second floor of the family unit.

Her body was discovered by her 12-year-old sister.

My Irish Angel, Jonny Lang

My experience of the bully

Those of you who have read the last paragraphs to “my about” will already be aware that not so long ago I passed through a situation where (and this I know does surprise all who know me) I allowed my self to be  bullied.

One day I finally put my foot down over all things Julia Gillard and the Citizens Assembly. I resented rightly the disparaging comments made about the woman I was busy campaigning for as the Election Campaign manager for my local Canberra ALP branch.

I was subjected to a very manipulative and bullying environment. There was never a better place than to lay egg shells than in this house I lived in for over 3 and a half years.

So much so I will freely admit  I was visited by the black dog almost daily for several months. Unknown to me at the time they were freely tweeting and blogging about their association with a person I had introduced them to who I had befriended and who had sought an opportunity for some house renovation work.

stupidThe paradox in my case was that it I was on the receiving end of a solicitor’s letter accusing me of *bullying and Harassment when the opposite was true.

Though I had already in place plans to move and had already moved as much stuff as my little car was able to be loaded with to a store; the other party felt it prudent ( to have the last laugh I guess) to have lawyers email me (not post) a letter giving me just 14 days to remove all my things and most of the furnishings I had supplied for the household from the get go.

A coup de grace by the bully.

There is a stupidity of the Law and the lack of residency rights of  partner ‘A’ in de facto relationship can make any defacto vulnerable where you are either not jointly on the lease or on the title deeds.

It can happen like this:

Partner ‘A’ though having contributed substantially financially and physically but who is not listed on the title deeds cannot regain access if  person ‘B’ or person ‘B & C’ ( in this case an existing husband) are listed on the tile deeds. B & C can choose to change the locks to exclude A from the property; though ‘A’ cannot be evicted ( *unless a DVO is threatened).

If A leaveS for any reason and try then regain entry as it will be considered breaking and entering even though  bulk of the household furniture etc belongs to ‘A’ .

In refuting those * untruths I wrote the following poem in immediate response.  Before reading this piece it is important to understand the context. I make mention of my Mother and my brother and I am somewhat torn by a blood loyalty to them both.

However it is what I wrote at the time in August 2010.

The Schoolyard

The playground has a bully
In all schools they can be found
I met mine so many times
In many years
First in first school
Then in second school
And some more in second school
And more again and

In the first school he was in the class above

With his gang all three would wait for me
I’d see them quickly duck and hide around the corner
On the street
My journey home
I was afraid I couldn’t face
So I would go the long way
Around another street

And race
I knew my mother would be waiting
been waiting far too long
So I should have faced the bullies
Some push or shove might be better all the same
Than the beating from the cane

One day I got caught.
Or did I let it happen?
I think I wanted to
With my soft toy in hand
I fought the bully
With just a hand
and the button nose of the seal
(my soft toy from another land)
I forgot those bullies.
And the cowards as they were
And my brother too.
But I remember my mother’s hand
My home was a place for bullies too

On the far left, is the corner where I fought the bully seal in hand. On the far right, is where I lived

But second school had bullies
Year 1
Year 2
And 3
Who it seemed had been all waiting
For someone just for me
In second school most boys had lost their shorts
To real men’s flannel trouser
But some like me had still had shorts.
a badge, a star,
Like a Yellow star of David’s
We’re poor were different were odd
They were cheap of course much cheaper than the trouser
But they were like a magnet. A beacon or a flag
“Hey come and get me”
“Here I am”

Each year or 2 above the first in second school
The bully was always in my frame
You couldn’t pull the curtain
You couldn’t hide in shame
You had to pass through the gate
Or be beside the bus stop
And there you had to wait
I fought back
and fought sometimes very hard
But the bully in 2 and 3 was often
a bit too large.

Eltham Green Lower Entrance

This is the school gate, opposite the bus stop

Somehow when year 2 arrived my trouser had been forgot
Just me alone with frozen knees and a boys long socks
There were less bullies now
and I had my  reputation.
Sometime in spring I think
My trouser came in 64
The bully quick departed.
I didn’t have to chase
And I never did
I let him go
For I was proud
No more hurt at school

At home it did remain
the bully number just the same
For still I had the bully brother
His fist I still couldn’t duck
And the trouser?
my respite from all scorn
It’s the knee became all torn
And so there was my mother
But now WITH broom stick in her hand.
I still see the bully from time to time
And I will intervene
If I should see him or her
I let them know their seen
And so I’m proud of whom I am
That I have never been a bully
And those who know my story
Will know I never can.

And those who ever meet me
Not knowing all above
Like my son My boy
My Friends
My Lover
They know I’ll never bully
They know I never can.

Something about  my Mother

She had an extremely hard life put into service at 13. She was the daughter of my Grandfather a Scots Guardsman who was rarely at home due to military service often overseas.

She lost her first husband who had fought in the Spanish Civil War (my brothers Father) and was ravaged by tuberculosis losing one of her lungs when pregnant with me. She was later to lose half of another when I was 7 or 8.

She  had to cope with our separation at my birth and we were apart for almost all the next 5 years.  When I was 8 she was back in hospital for the removal of some of her remaining lung . This life must have been tough on her. Unfortunately she seemed tough on me too but I know I was a difficult boy at times.

We never did make the best connection and as an adult looking back I blame myself and I miss her sometimes.

I  know that a strong woman like her would have enjoyed the camaraderie of Emily’s List which I am sure my Mother would have been involved with as she was in her later years with OXFAM.

My Mother never spoke of her Mother and today as I finish writing I realise I never asked. I wish I had.

My elder brother and I often disagreed about stuff and we had our final parting 5 years ago  I had never thought then how life  must have been for him, losing his father and he too was badly affected by TB.

I was thinking of editing them both out of the poem but then it wouldn’t be the reality of what I wrote in August 2010.

I loved them both though.

So to finish I thought I would include a live version of Sitting at a Red Light

Perhaps we should all stop and give ourselves time to take breath, slow down ….give a chance to think,  give up on speeding through our whole life .

Get out, get on our feet and walk it out.



So in the pipeline blogline, providing there are no more coups to interrupt me, it will be The Afro Beat Revolution CD; something about the music of the Resistance (a la North Africa); the Home Guard, Dad’s Army and the Communists;  something a bit lighthearted on my workshop; and Crossroads 3.

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