By Tim Middleton
Bull-fighting is a sport that attracts a massive following in a number of countries around the world. Huge crowds gather to witness humans pitting themselves against these large, strong animals in what is deemed to be entertainment. It is man versus beast; it is many men against one beast. It is all about intimidating, taunting, provoking, irritating, ridiculing, all to get a response, a reaction, which will ultimately only lead to further aggression, violence and blood in an atmosphere of fear, survival and exhaustion. The matadors will get the glory, the rewards, the kudos — for the bulls…?
Many will see bull-fighting as a remarkable exhibition of technique, style and courage in the face of great danger and threat; they will see it not as a contest between man and beast but between man and himself. It is about man trying to prove himself in front of others and trying to improve himself in the process. The bull-fighter is looking to conquer his own fear and take chances while all along the spectators can watch on, do nothing but urge the fighter on and on.
Then there are others who see it very differently; they see it definitely and definitively as prime examples of cowardice and sadism, of torture, humiliation and torment, while all the time the bull-fighter is making himself out to be the hero, all at the expense of the chosen victim who has no choice in the matter.
Bull-fighting is outlawed in Zimbabwe but in some countries it remains legal. There are many who would not want it to be stopped, not least as they are the ones who benefit from it. There are many, however, who do call for it to be stopped, to be banned. People will be quick to point out that not only is it outlawed here in Zimbabwe but will proudly declare it is indeed not practised — except it is! Quite simply, it is found in the bullying that is prevalent all around us. We should not be putting all our energy into banning bull-fighting but into eliminating bullying, which has all the same traits of bull-fighting as described above.
It is not the bull we should be fighting; it is the bully. The bully has all the traits of the bull; he is large, imposing, threatening, strong and muscular, sometimes physically, often vocally, usually resourcefully, even intellectually. The bully regularly and routinely endeavours to harm or at least intimidate those that they think are vulnerable; at least, they look to find the weak point in the other person, drain it little by little or, if they feel like it, make a big show of it and finish it quickly and violently. They bully with arguments, with inducements, with incitements and threats.
Bullies are looking for a fight just as the bull-fighters in the ring are doing. Bullies look to get a reaction, be it on social media, in the formal media or simply in the informal circle. They follow the principle of “Do to others before they do it to you” — get the sword in first, jump out of the way of the cumbersome response and make a show of it. They avoid the victim’s strained response to pass them by and hold their arms aloft, as if asking, “Do you know who I am?” The bully loves the attention, loves the smell of fear, loves the anticipation of glory and delights in making it last longer than necessary. The bully seeks to prove his greatness and improve his position. He loves to be the centre of attention, to hold court and receive praise — for his cowardly, cruel and contrary actions.
There are no doubts many things we would like to say about bullies, but there is definitely one thing we can say for sure about bullies is — they are full of bull. The bullies are the ones who huff and puff, snort and scrape, kick and lash out. They make a lot of noise with nothing to support it. They use their weight (be it physical, social, intellectual, vocal) to gain an advantage; they kick out and charge around, out of anger and dislike, knowing no other way, trapped in their own ring of shame.
We might stop bull-fighting but we must not stop fighting the bully. It is not a game; it is not a sport; for some it is a matter of life or death, all played out publicly. We must stop the bullying at all levels. Sadly, all too often, the spectators are the ones baying for more blood, glad at least that it is not them being bullied. In truth, schools and homes are the training grounds of bullies who graduate to the bigger school of bullying in the workplace, on the roads, in the public arena. It is time we all agreed — no more “Ole”, much more “Oh no” and “Enough”. Let us cut to the chase — stop the bull.
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.
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