Dear unknown friend,
I was talking about scapegoating in my last letter, and a memory came up afterwards.
One day of last autumn, I was on a bus in London, on my way back from a gardening job. Two seats in front of me were three boys in their school uniforms. Two of them were sitting and one was standing in front of them, in the area near the bus doors. The two sitting ones were playing with him.
The game was not friendly. He let them do, though. He didn't try to put any distance between himself and them. One grabbed him by the tie and pulled, throwing him out of balance... but they kept talking together, like school mates do. Then the other sitting boy grabbed his hands and twisted them, until the poor boy asked, in a low voice... "please...."
Later, the first bully took the boy's hat. He tried to get it back but the bully didn't let him. He claimed he would throw the hat through the window at the next stop to see the boy getting off the bus, picking his hat and getting back on the bus before the doors closed...if he had time. The bully kept pretending he would do it.... but didn't. When a bully plays with a scapegoat, you know, they play with their emotions.
I was observing, feeling spiky butterflies in my stomach. I was wondering if it would be a good thing to intervene. The scapegoat looked so familiar with his bullies, so accepting...
But then I saw him take a fifty pence coin out of his pocket, offering to pay to get his hat back. The bully pretended to throw it through the window again. I grabbed the hat from behind. -Surprise! I threw it to the boy who said "thank you" without looking at me.
I said out loud:
"You look like bullies!"
The little bully answered:
"Oh shut up!"
I insisted. I said:
"You heard me!"
He told me to shut up again, I repeated he had heard what I had to say again, and I let him utter the last useless word.
This stopped the bullying anyway.
A bit later, he told me: "We know each other!..." as if this justified anything. We, human beings, have a tendency to believe that more is permitted with those we are familiar with. In a sense, it's true, familiar ways are ways we can't use with anyone. Does that justifies violence? Of course not.
I answered, a bit stupidly "I hope so!" as if things would have been worse if they didn't. Never mind. I had named the behavior. Naming is like switching on the light in the shadow...Shaming is not necessary.
Nobody else, on that bus, had said anything. I don't blame them. In our world, we are blaming far too much, and not understanding enough. Maybe on that day I did the right thing. I don't always do. If I took advantage of this one right thing I did to point my finger at others in an accusatory manner, I would just perpetuate this habit of putting others down to feel better than them...
We need to be kind with ourselves and with others. We don't do spontaneously the "right things". We need to become aware, we need to overcome fears, we need to fail quite a few times before one day, we do or just say the right thing for once... and it's OK. It's life such as it is. We're learning...
May we all be happy!
I wish you to feel good as often and intensely as possible!