BACK TO THE BULLY

I note that this blog has been running for some 12 years. Given that at least one item was published each month, and often more, we have a minimum of 150 articles. But perhaps, even more important, has been the quality of the readers’ discussions. And it continues to be so. But it does mean that we have a wide range of subjects — so wide that I sometimes find it difficult to write something new. I have managed to avoid Covid so far – at least while the newspapers are full of it.

But the subject of bullying has come into my mind. It is important at the personal level but it also applies at a much broader level. Far more topical is the issue of racial prejudice. That is simply bullying on the basis of race: our societies are prone to identify visible characteristics — some of which are seen to be unlikeable – followed by the assumption that every individual in the group in some way demonstrates such characteristics.

This is what I had to say:

Every time the name Crump (a pseudonym) comes into my mind, I have a tinge of guilt. The memory goes back 70 years when he and I were age nine and we were at school together. He was an effeminate boy, given to whining, and he was broadly disliked by his schoolmates. He may have been pushed around a bit, but he was never physically bullied. We were at a good Catholic school and we knew that that was wrong. But he suffered contempt from his peers, and he was frequently criticised for his erring ways. He must have been very unhappy.


I should, of course, have taken his part. But I was at an age when my  immature moral sense was guided by the attitudes of my peers. So I passed by on the other side.


I was later to learn that the unpopular boys were often the most interesting. And, from time to time, I have read how people who achieved distinction in later life often had a history of being bullied it school. A characteristic of high achievers is their independence of thought, which may well make them unpopular in conformist circumstances. Indeed, ensuring conformity is a frequent motivation for bullying the outsider. But I do not think that Crump would have benefitted; to the best of my knowledge he sank without trace. And we should expect that to have been so, because, in general, the long term effects of being bullied can be very serious indeed for those who do not have the innate toughness and confidence to survive it.


Several studies of these long-term effects have been done, and a recent one published this year in Psychological Science gives us a good overall view. The children were assessed between the ages of nine and 16, and the adult outcomes measured in their mid-20s.Victims presented very clear health risks in adulthood, being six times as likely to be diagnosed with serious illness, or to develop a psychiatric disorder. They were more than twice as likely to have difficulty in keeping a job, or to commit to saving. Poverty in young adulthood is common. They have difficulty in forming, or sustaining, long-term friendships or keeping good ties with their parents in adulthood. They are also prone in childhood to become bullies themselves, in turn, since they lack the emotional control to cope with their experiences. Those who have been bullied and have themselves bullied appear to be the most affected by the consequences.


Another recent study, by the American Psychological Association, shows that victims of chronic bullying were substantially more likely to commit crimes in adult life and, in consequence, to find themselves in prison. Female victims shared these characteristics, as well as a propensity to turn to alcohol or drugs. The author, Michael Turner, commented: “This study highlights the important role that healthcare professionals can play early in a child’s life when bullying is not adequately addressed by teachers, parents or guardians.” He tells me that he is planning further studies to refine his conclusions.


The NSPCC tells us that nearly half of all children report that they have been bullied at some time or another. Around a third of children experience bullying in a given year, and one in five of the children who were worrying about being bullied said that they would not talk to their parents about it. Two out of five have experienced cyber-bullying. Bullying was the main reason that boys contacted the NSPCC ChildLine service.


Experts are agreed that bullying is potentially a very damaging experience with severe long-term consequences. And parents are most concerned that their children should neither be bullied, nor bully in turn. They may wish to take action through the school as forcibly as possible. But it may not be as easy as that. It is hard to tell whether an isolated episode of bullying, which many will experience, is of short duration and can be safely ignored with the help of a little parental support. Nor must we suppose that parents will always know about it. Children have their own private world of relationships, nowadays much extended by social media. They may feel that the interference of parents will identify them more clearly as a target. And they may well be ashamed of being bullied and, as their self-confidence leaks, they may begin to feel that they deserve it. This suggests that action should be taken before it is actually needed – in the same way that prudent parents tackle sexual education.


The subject for discussion is not best opened by a direct question such as: are you being bullied? The third party approach is better. Here, in general conversation, the questions are in the form of: is there much bullying in your class? What kind of person is a bully, and what makes them so? Do you have any friends who have been bullied? Can we imagine what it feels like to be bullied? We might even have a personal experience of being bullied to pass on as an anecdote. This should be an informal discussion not an interrogation, nor a tense interview. Even if personal clues are not raised in the children’s answers, at least parents can ensure that necessary information is given.

Notwithstanding such an ideal, parents should keep a weather eye open for uncharacteristic changes in their children. A sense of depression, loss of appetite, poor sleep and an unfamiliar reluctance to go to school are among the signs which may tip off parents that their children need support and help.

About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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56 Responses to BACK TO THE BULLY

  1. Hock says:

    Reading this latest blog there seems to be some sort of understanding that parents and teachers are guardians against bullying when in fact they are just as likely to be perpetrators as anyone else.
    When I think back to my schooldays my memories of bullies includes staff who sometimes encouraged the school bullies in their misdeeds. Parents too. Domestic violence is not limited to husbands ( partners ) on wives (partners.) Incidentally perhaps for a future blog but it is estimated that 1 in 4 cases of domestic violence are committed by women on men and their children.

    • galerimo says:

      How true! thank you Hock – you remind me of Priests, Teachers, Medics and strangers from my childhood who were in positions of trust and care over me – not peers. Bullies.

      And the occasions when my parents, who did not appear to know any better, seemingly colluding with the bullying so it was better not to tell them.

      I remember one day coming home from school where I had received 22 slaps with a leather strap from different teachers because I was not able to give correct answers.

      I too am guilty of bullying in my own life – abusing the power I had over others. And it is certainly one of the regrets I live with.

  2. David Smith says:

    Quentin, racism and bullying are two hot topics in the “news” these days. Whenever the media wholeheartedly attack something – and they do that endlessly, because it gets readers, listeners, and viewers excited, angry, and indignant and inclined to listen or watch or read for more of the same emotionally stimulating stuff – that issue instantly becomes exaggerated and oversimplified and distorted. I ignore it. Unfortunately, the gullible and sugestionable and easily excitable general public do not, and the stress level of this already badly stressed modern world rises ever higher. The media are providing a distinct disservice to humanity. We now have entire societies believing that the world is a terrible place, filled wall to wall with nothing but cruelty and misery. Deplorable. Shameful. Irredeemable. This works directly and openly against community; it stunts it in its infancy and if it grows nevertheless, it tears it apart.

    Of course injustice and unfairness happen. So do fairness and justice, and everything in between.

    That said, I’ve never been bullied, so far as I remember, nor did I witness bullying. Nor did I ever practice racism or witness it. Both are non-issues for me. If I ever start taking after others for being bullies or racists, God help me.

    Contemporary English lacks but needs a shorthand term for the sort of distortion and mental mass manipulation of which the teaching academy and the media have been guilty on a grand scale in recent decades. It’s a pity George Orwell is no longer around to provide it.

    • Alasdair says:

      “Of course injustice and unfairness happen. So do fairness and justice, and everything in between”. Yes that’s a reasonable assessment, and I would add that the direction of travel is toward fairness and justice. But I agree – don’t expect that to be apparent from reading and listening to the media.
      I believe that there is indeed a contemporary lexicon of relevant terms available to enable discussion of the distortion and manipulation that you describe. I must confess that I’m not familiar with it though.

  3. ignatius says:

    Well there you go everybody.. the answer I’ve been looking for all these years..! Even at the distance of over half a century I remember well the horrible Mr B..whose speciality it was to tread heavily on the toes of us kids while he stood only a couple of inches away smiling down with pleasure at our distress..and later a neurotic deputy head Mrs F who once smacked me round the face so hard it made me dizzy. As I stumbled to my knees I still remember the look of horror in her eyes lest her ways be discovered.

    Mind, most of all that paled into insignificance compared with my regular home occupation of punchbag for my elder brother…Not surprising then that I too became a bully desperate to show how ‘hard’ I was ..in fact of course being desperate for approval from my equally misguided peers. By 14 I was a truant, getting into gangs and drugs till, by 18, it was burglary!

    So there you go , Quentin..a text book case! I was reminded of all this recently, only a few months ago when I did a short spell as relief chaplain for a colleague who was having to self isolate for 3-4 months. This was at a Young Offenders institution.. After getting used to the somewhat raucous environment of the prison I realised I quite liked the place! .

    .I liked it because most of the lads..in for stabbings, drugs, robbery etc… reminded me of my mates back then in those difficult days. Working there was in many ways a poignant experience. Seeing so many young lads lost in the brutality they were perpetuating. Often I would watch some young man striding cockily across the yard with his gang- only to have that same young man come to me later in tears because he was about to be released and no one would have him home.

    However it has to be said that plenty of my school mates did not veer off the path. When I look back at those of us who ended up foul of the law most came from difficult backgrounds….even then, no one ever forced me into delinquency..I went quite happily down that road myself!!

  4. galerimo says:

    Thank you, Ignatius, again you give me great assurance when you share your experience and your reflections on the life you live and the work you do.

    One of the essentials in dealing with this evil in my life was to be able to see it for what it was and then to start to learn how to address it.

    I certainly have bullied and certainly have been guilty of racism. The journey of forgiveness and compassion would not have been possible without that acknowledgment.

    As usual the price of freedom in this area is constant vigilance.

    And it amazes me just how subtle are the ways of abusing the trust of others and also abusing the legitimate power over them.

    Its a question of leadership. Self leadership as well as true leadership in connection with others.

  5. galerimo says:

    Recently the story of a 9-year-old boy wanting to commit suicide after his long history of bullying came to a head one day, shocked everyone, the world over.

    His mother recorded his state of distress, out of desperation and anger to expose the damage. She did not know what else to do to try and stop it. The husband had left the family a long time ago.

    The boy, Quaden Bayles, suffers from dwarfism. The mother’s video went viral. The family received lots of sympathy.

    Then it all went horrible. People claimed it was a fraud and the same media platform was then bombarded with vile accusations, people withdrawing their support and offering plain hate.

    After proper investigation Quaden was vindicated and his experience was sadly shown to be true.

    One of the millions of people who saw the video of this Australian boy, was a school psychologist in the US.

    He contacted Quaden’s mum and said that her action in publishing the video was perfectly understandable given that she was at the end of her tether, not knowing how to protect her son.

    However, he pointed out that what would better serve Quaden would not be to seeking the approval of other people but to help Quaden cultivate a way of believing in himself, his own worth.

    He said Quaden needed to be able to recognise and name the dysfunction in other people when they bullied him. And to cultivate the courage in him to call it out with such people.

    We all got to see this in practice when the ABC did a great piece of investigative reporting in a program on the whole episode.

    And it was very gratifying to watch Quaden going through role plays, via Zoom, with this young American psychologist.

    This boy is Aboriginal, he suffers dwarfism and shares his home with other siblings who are normal in stature and with his single parent Mum.

    He knows the bullying of racism, of disability and of early childhood cruelty from his peers. “Please kill me” were the words on his 9-year old lips.

    Thanks you for the topic Quentin!

  6. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes:

    // Even at the distance of over half a century I remember well the horrible Mr B..whose speciality it was to tread heavily on the toes of us kids while he stood only a couple of inches away smiling down with pleasure at our distress..and later a neurotic deputy head Mrs F who once smacked me round the face so hard it made me dizzy. … Mind, most of all that paled into insignificance compared with my regular home occupation of punchbag for my elder brother //

    Dreadful, but evidently not all that uncommon, yes? Humans seem to have great potential for hate and love, cruelty and kindness, blindered thinking and wisdom, and so forth. If the culture forbids something, though, I’d expect it to pop up elsewhere. Today, Mr B and Mrs F likely indulge their impulses otherwise, acceptably, hardly noticed. Eventually, I suppose, society and its scientists will “progress” so far that they will be able to spot such inclinations in utero and “terminate” the “faulty” fetuses. I suppose it’s realistic to expect that science is working toward such an idyllic future. I wonder whether the Catholic Church, if it’s still around when that comes, will applaud it. I’d not bet against that.

  7. Alasdair says:

    Those of us with responsibilities for young people within the church and elsewhere will have received training in “Safeguarding” at regular intervals. This addresses identification of bullying and the proper procedures for dealing with it. All schools have anti-bullying policies. No pupil can be in any doubt about what constitutes bullying in its many forms. Children reporting bullying against themselves or others must be listened to and a confidential record kept which following further investigation may lead to some action by the nominated staff members. It is essential that young people have confidence in the system. Schools are much happier places these days.

  8. John Nolan says:

    As a somewhat introverted ‘swot’ who disliked sport I was occasionally picked on at school but never systematically bullied. No-one would have been bullied because of a disability – schoolboys have a rough-and-ready code of honour which would have precluded that. There were no black or Asian pupils at my school, but racial prejudice is not usually a factor in bullying. Victimize a black kid and you would have the other black kids to answer to.

    • Alasdair says:

      John, I think things have moved on, and for the better – “Victimise a black kid and you would have the other black kids to answer to”. In my school the awareness and ethos is now so high that “Victimise a black kid and you would have ALL the other kids to answer to”.

      • Ignatius says:

        I’m not much involved in schools now, only a couple of local primaries. My wife was a supply teacher till about 4 years ago and mostly It seemed that in the playground the old rules still applied. At least here in the Midlands.

  9. Ignatius says:

    I’m not even sure that what seems like “racial prejudice” in the young is about ‘race’ at all, rather it is about difference. I went through a variety of identities as a kid, going from football gang to skinhead gang to drug gang to anti racist gang to socialist gang and so on….looking back I tend to think that most if not all of it was about fear and simple tribe mentality. As for racism, I must confess a dislike for the term.

    • FZM says:

      It is on the way to becoming a term like Fascism where a book about the ‘career of the concept’ is going to be needed to follow and decode what it means.

      I came across an interesting new French word recently, raciologue, used by the historian Frederic Chapoutot of the Third Reich’s racial experts in his book about Nazi racial ideology. Raciologist might be the English equivalent. It is a shame that book isn’t available in translation yet because it is a great guide to the lengths to which racial thought was taken in that period. I didn’t know that cats were deemed to be ‘oriental’ and ‘Jewish’ due to their asocial, individualistic and opportunistic nature, for example. The dog was the appropriate pet of the true Aryan because it manifested heroic European values of solidarity and self sacrifice in a fuller way.

  10. David Smith says:

    FZM writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/27/back-to-the-bully/#comment-61565 ) :

    // I didn’t know that cats were deemed to be ‘oriental’ and ‘Jewish’ due to their asocial, individualistic and opportunistic nature, for example. The dog was the appropriate pet of the true Aryan because it manifested heroic European values of solidarity and self sacrifice in a fuller way. //

    The woke are not romantics. Theirs is a purely Puritan creed, paper thin and sightless. They certainly are not philosophers; thus, the “-logue” suffix does not apply.

    Is this a different writer?

    • FZM says:

      Yes, it’s him. I got his first name wrong. This is the book I was reading:

      I see on amazon that it does have an English translation:

      But the Kindle French version is much better value.

  11. John Nolan says:

    I agree with Ignatius regarding the terms racist and racism. Their definition is so subjective as to render them useless unless used as a term of abuse. The 21st century obsession with ethnicity is unhealthy. I recall receiving a communication from the police which had numerous boxes to tick as to ethnic origin. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were deemed to be ethnically distinct. There was a box for ‘white European’ but the last one was ‘Irish’. I wrote to express my indignation that this illustrious race was not deemed to be white or European but listed after all the rag tag and bobtail of the former British Empire. Needless to say, there was no reply.

    Over the past four weeks we have been constantly reminded that it is ‘Black History Month’. Even Radio 3 has been infected. If someone were to suggest that English and British history be regarded as a cause for unalloyed celebration he would be ridiculed and rightly so.

    So no mention of any of the villains of ‘black history’, such as King Gezo of Dahomey (1818-1858) who said in the 1840s that he would accede to all British demands except the abolition of the slave trade, ‘the ruling principle of my people … the source and glory of their wealth’, or his predecessor King Tegbesu who made £250,000 in 1750 selling slaves. Not to mention African-Moslem slave traders like Babatu and Tipu Tib who were still operating in the last quarter of the 19th century.

    • Alasdair says:

      The mountainous areas of Northern Tuscany (the western end of the Linea Gottica) were liberated in 1944 by the American 92nd Infantry Division – the “Buffalo Soldiers”. These black soldiers defeated a still-powerful German force which included some elite SS units, and in the process suffered heavy losses. This piece of black history is recognised in Italy in local museums and the naming of streets and piazzas. It is pretty-much airbrushed out of the mainstream American version of events though. The National Buffalo Soldiers Museum, located in Houston TX is dedicated to the disproportionate, but disgracefully uncredited contribution of black service men and latterly women, during all American wars. It is astonishing that it is still so difficult to get a version of history which gives a balanced and accurate view of events.

  12. David Smith says:

    FZM writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/27/back-to-the-bully/#comment-61570 ) :

    // But the Kindle French version is much better value. //

    Bought them both. With my lazily learned French, I need to stumble through the original. My shame.

    Disgraced cultures are well worth looking at in depth, not only as curiosities but because the disgracing is almost bound to be poorly if not badly thought through, done as it is not thoughtfully but because the mass mind simply jumps onto a new band wagon. Witness all the present establishment’s frenzied and spasmodic purging of a laundry list of hate objects.

    Fascinating. Thank you.

    • FZM says:

      I’m glad you found it useful.

      I found it an interesting book to read at the moment. In Western countries like the US, Britain, post-war Germany, Nazism is still a live cultural reference but you are right that the presentation of it is in various ways tailored to the needs of the present and the audience.

      There is some interesting history around the ‘de-nazification’ period in the late 40s and early 50s, when the various occupation authorities in Germany set about trying to eliminate National Socialist influence on German society. In the US zone, this involved the Frankfurt School thinkers and the introduction of Critical Theory (which has proved influential in the long run).

  13. Ignatius says:

    // Witness all the present establishment’s frenzied and spasmodic purging of a laundry list of hate objects//.

    Er… Possibly a little clarity might help here… Which establishment..? Which country? what is a laundry list of hate objects and could you give an example please?

  14. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/27/back-to-the-bully/#comment-61573 ) :

    // Er… Possibly a little clarity might help here… Which establishment..? Which country? what is a laundry list of hate objects and could you give an example please? //

    The dominant cultural establishment seems much the same here in the US and in Britain, ignatius (I read the Spectator (UK version), the Telegraph, and the Critic). You know the list very well :o)

  15. ignatius says:

    Thanks David I had forgotten where you were. Suffering like yourself from difficulty with words means I genuinely don’t understand your post. My interpretation of your words is that you are speaking about Donald Trumps pet hates, by which I mean various individuals then Democrats, then China; but I simply do not know. If I ask you to clarify something then I usually mean that I really and genuinely don’t understand you but am interested enough in what you say to try and grasp the gist, right now I remain baffled.

  16. David Smith says:

    ignatius writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/27/back-to-the-bully/#comment-61578 ) :

    // If I ask you to clarify something then I usually mean that I really and genuinely don’t understand you but am interested enough in what you say to try and grasp the gist, right now I remain baffled. //

    Hmm. I’m baffled that you’re baffled. However, I’ll assume that you’re sincere. I’m referring to the apparently open-ended list of woke hate objects – the thought and speech and people and inanimate objects that the left consider so reprehensible that they need to be aggressively punished and destroyed by the state. The same list is valid for the Church, too, though with slightly different emphases – with the Church, it’s less explicit and, in some cases, more insidious.

    Of course, YMMV :o)

    • ignatius says:

      Ok, with you now.

      • ignatius says:

        //the thought and speech and people and inanimate objects that the left consider so reprehensible that they need to be aggressively punished and destroyed by the state. The same list is valid for the Church, too, though with slightly different emphases – with the Church, it’s less explicit and, in some cases, more insidious.//

        To be honest I pay so little attention to the ‘Woke’ that when I hear the term I think of a horror film or a band. I did all that pseudo socialist trumpeting myself at University when, still needing a gang, I joined the ‘Self Righteous/One Upmanship Mob’. I was a member of that for some time because it was cool at the time and some of the girls were nice.
        As to the Church well, self righteousness can easily become the order of the day of course but it is held in check by an understanding of the word SIN and a different basic ethos. In the end humility is the only thing that combats the will to power successfully an humility is born of an accurate understanding of self as fallen yet beloved of God.

      • FZM says:

        I have some strong doubts about the woke. I listen to a fair amount of podcasts while I am working and just heard this one with the evolutionary biologist Brett Weinstein, who is an American liberal with a Jewish background based in Portland, talking with the British conservative writer Douglas Murray:

        At the 1 hr 48 mins point Brett sums up certain aspects of the woke worldview as attacking the foundations of science, mathematics, logic, the Enlightenment, the idea of equality between the races and as sounding a lot like things that have been seen in the not too distant past.

        Reading the book I was discussing with David above, I got what he means. Major attacks on the core principles of universalism in knowledge, politics and religion on the basis of race have to be treated with a lot of caution. Especially at the moment when they seem to be gaining institutional influence.

  17. Alasdair says:

    It is not my view that “The dominant cultural establishment seems much the same here in the US and in Britain”. For example it seems to me that “Socialist” is now used in the US as an insult, rather than simply a shorthand for left-of-centre political affiliation. Much as people used to use the words Commy or Red to insult people who they perceived to hold even more strongly left wing views and who were therefore regarded as a threat to peace and national security.

    • David Smith says:

      // It is not my view that “The dominant cultural establishment seems much the same here in the US and in Britain”. For example it seems to me that “Socialist” is now used in the US as an insult, rather than simply a shorthand for left-of-centre political affiliation. //

      That’s hardly “establishment”, Alasdair. The dominant “establishment” here in the US lean heavily left, and the left are strongly in favor of national central control of much of life. The editorial use of “socialist” as a pejorative here seems to me to be limited to a subset of conservatives, perhaps the less self-consciously “educated” ones. “Grass roots” conservatives. I think you said you lived for a while in Texas. I imagine you may have heard that sort of talk there a lot. I suspect that most “educated” conservatives here would be rather more selective in their choice of derogatory euphemisms.

      That said, Europe as a whole seems to me much more inclined to strongly centralized government than, I think, is most of America (if you except the left). Strange as it may seem to you, the spectre of strong centralization here looks to many – likely most – Americans like a door to socialism, which looks perilously close to communism. In some ways, America and Britain are culturally very different places. We were born in rebellion against a strong central government, whereas modern Britain evolved directly out of monarchy.

      All that aside, the American left is I think strongly parallel to the European left, not least these days in its active sympathy for the woke way of thinking and feeling.

      • ignatius says:

        FMZ
        Thanks for the podcast. I have just listened to it avidly. I was very interested in the question of who is ‘we’?
        From my late twenties for several years I was involved with activist politics in one form or another. Through my fourties and fifties I was very involved in Christian Evangelism. Here at the back end of my sixties I eschew Politics in almost any form other than trying to help the State be the best State it can. I do this by preaching, teaching, chaplaincy and living my life as best I can before God in terms of compassion, mercy….and humour!!
        The podcast was an excellent tutorial in ethics and power. I am still left with a huge caution, one which WB Yeats put well in his poem the Second Coming.
        “The best lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity”

      • Alasdair says:

        Thanks for that David. I haven’t actually lived in Texas although I worked with Texans for years and my daughter has lived in Houston for 5 years. I have now spent enough time there to realise that Texas and Texans are very different from how they’re perceived by outsiders. For example they walk and cycle more than Brits – now there’s a surprise! And football (soccer) is the number one participation sport for youngsters. The devolved school systems (ISDs) in many counties in Texas have amongst the highest educational attainment in the English speaking world. It’s not by chance that NASA and one of the largest medical research infrastructures in the world, the TMC, have located in Houston.
        Like all of us, Americans are entrapped in the conventional history of their country. The reality is that the average European enjoys much more freedom than the average American.
        European countries have highly decentralised governments. For example, Scotland where I live has operated in many ways as a separate state from the other 3 devolved countries of the UK (England, Wales, N Ireland) since 1999. Only two government departments remain entirely centralised in London – Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
        This is also broadly the position in Italy (which I know very well) Germany and most of the others. The only major European country which is arguably over-centralised is France which is perhaps the reason that there are such high levels of mass dissent.

      • FZM says:

        Thanks for the podcast. I have just listened to it avidly. I was very interested in the question of who is ‘we’?

        Yes, I liked the way Douglas Murray brought that point up. It was a good discussion

        I feel like I grew up in a fairly apolitical period, in my 20s it was Tony Blair and the kind of centrist consensus style politics that became popular in that time. I was mainly interested in different aspects of political history, then religion. Then the New Atheist thing came along and that motivated me to become more active, in apologetics and later participating more actively in parish life where I was living.

        At present I have had to leave the country where I was living because of the political situation and now I can’t actually re-enter because for one reason and another no one, even full citizens are not allowed to re-enter if they have been living abroad so I have been following UK and US politics more closely. The seeming revival of interest in the hard left among the young is very interesting, and some of the woke politics with respect to race and ethnicity.

  18. ignatius says:

    PS..I also vote and support the political party of my choice.

  19. David Smith says:

    Alisdair writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/27/back-to-the-bully/#comment-61593 ) :

    // The reality is that the average European enjoys much more freedom than the average American. //

    Fascinating. Would you mind fleshing that out a bit?

  20. Alasdair says:

    An American client gifted me a book by the American 19th century patriot Henry David Thoreau. I quote “At present the best part of the land is not private property: the walker enjoys comparative freedom. But the day will come when it will be partitioned off into pleasure-grounds in which a few will take a narrow and exclusive pleasure only” Thoreau’s vision proved correct. That is exactly what happened. In most of the US, hiking, hill walking, rambling etc is controlled and limited to areas set aside and prepared for the purpose, be that urban Greenways, State Parks, National Parks, with their paved trails and colour-coded waymarks, and patrolled by well-meaning but overly-helpful uniformed staff. It is no longer possible to enjoy the outdoors in the manner that Thoreau and John Muir described. Nor in the manner that Europeans increasingly can.
    By contrast, although Europe is largely privately owned, obstructing public access on foot to the countryside for recreational purposes whether by placing physical barrier or signage is illegal. In many areas, eg the Scottish Highland, path construction and signposting is discouraged as that compromises the wilderness value. The idea of the countryside “closing at 10pm” would astonishe Europeans. The specific legal framework varies from country to country but by and large all Europeans enjoy this freedom which is essential for mental as well as physical wellbeing. In England the key historical event leading to this was the Kinder Mass Trespass of 1932. If this event had occurred in the US, the outcome would most likely have been very different.

    • Alasdair says:

      My family and I have benefitted for many years from a uniquely European freedom. Namely the freedom to move from country to country, in some cases without even having to take one’s foot off the gas pedal (in the case of the Schengen countries). I’m not sure I’d attempt that between neighbouring N American countries. We have benefitted from employment and educational opportunities in different countries with hardly any bureaucracy and when the occasion demanded we’ve also used their healthcare at no cost.
      For reasons that I am unable to fathom, the UK voted to deprive itself of these freedoms in a referendum in 2016 by a majority of 51.89% to 48.11%.

      • John Nolan says:

        Going back to the original topic, it is interesting that a significant number of workplace bullies are women. Is it because having found themselves in positions of authority they need to over-compensate for it? Do they assume that success in a male-dominated environment gives them a privileged position? Or are they just nasty pieces of work, like the schoolgirl bullies who are far worse than their male counterparts?

      • FZM says:

        It is possibly because there were large numbers of voters who would never really make use of them but did see the other side of them; that many Europeans suddenly had free access to the British employment market. I remember this because I was living in a city that was already relatively ethnically diverse before the late 2000s, then a lot of different Eastern Europeans arrived quite quickly on top of that. A large part of the rest of the population was white working class, classic ‘somewhere’ people. I left in the early 2010s to go and live in Eastern Europe (but not in the EU) because it seemed a better and safer environment for raising children.

      • Alasdair says:

        FZM says “It is possibly because there were large numbers of voters who would never really make use of them” – ie the rights to free movement of labour. Or they believe they don’t make use of them. But of course they do – every time they use the NHS staffed as it is by highly qualified EU staff, and every time they buy British agricultural produce harvested and packaged by EU workers.

      • FZM says:

        Going into a British hospital they probably observed that healthcare workers are not exclusively available to recruit from within the EU.

        And, I see that relations can’t make use of healthcare in their own country because the relevant staff are now being employed within the EU, because wealthy countries like the UK are employing the trained healthcare staff of countries like Poland.

  21. David Smith says:

    Thank you, Alasdair. I hadn’t thought of that sort of freedom. Point taken.

  22. Alasdair says:

    In helpfully guiding us back to the main topic, John Nolan brought up workplace bullying by women. That reminded me of the Priti Patel “case”. To quote WikiPedia “In March 2020, it was reported that while serving as International Development Secretary Patel was alleged to have “harassed and belittled” staff in her private office in 2017”.
    It could well be that people who have had to fight their way up from minority backgrounds have to have a hard streak which could cross the boundary into bullying – or be perceived as such. In Patel’s case, as well as being female, she is also Ugandan Asian in background.
    I have a former colleague and good friend from similar stock. He is more British than the Brits. This could explain why Patel espouses views which are more akin to those of the the British mainstream of 50 years ago.

    • FZM says:

      This could explain why Patel espouses views which are more akin to those of the the British mainstream of 50 years ago.

      What kind of views on race does she actually hold? Apart from the issue with refugees and islands, from what I have heard she seems to hold standard liberal views on race questions. Sometimes she is accused of having ‘internalised whitness’ or of being a ‘model minority’ by the woke (often in more colourful language), but this is the case with all of the non-white people in the current Conservative government it seems.

      • ignatius says:

        Prison staff are very interested in Ms Patel as her views affect us quite strongly. I would go along with standard liberal with a streak of hard line tory. She is capable of surprising her critics. I’m growing to like her.

    • milliganp says:

      My experience is that our many varied Asian communities have strong internal cohesion but value hard work and fiscal prudence- which are traditional conservative values. I doubt if Priti Patel had to develop a hard streak, she just has to hold to certain definite values. However, she does suffer on of the hardest forms of prejudice to overcome – that assertive women are automatically deemed to be aggressive.

  23. Quentin says:

    I was reading some of my own poetry (written several years ago and never published). I showed my daughter some Valentines I had sent to my secretaries. She tells me that I would have really been in trouble for that nowadays. Oh dear!.

    • milliganp says:

      When I was a young man, office romances were common and many secretaries married their bosses. Without some form of flirting in the workplace, these romances would never have developed. With the often strict (and, in my opinion, puritanical) policies imposed by many employers as a form of enlightenment, workplace romances are not merely nipped in the bud but banned from possible existence.
      And so dating apps replace the development of casual acquaintances – young men and women meet total strangers and try to build relationships with people they barely know.

  24. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/27/back-to-the-bully/#comment-61612 ) :

    // I would have really been in trouble for that nowadays. //

    Oh, dear, indeed. I see we’ve been censored. What’s to be forbidden next?

  25. John Nolan says:

    David Smith

    ‘What’s to be forbidden next?’ Well, a quango called the Law Commission has just recommended that so-called ‘hate speech’ should be a criminal offence when it takes place in one’s own home, with a maximum penalty of seven years penal servitude.

    ‘Hate speech’ includes criticism of any group deemed vulnerable and the list keeps on growing. Women, racial minorities and LGBTQ+, of course, but the LC wants the list extended to include punks, goths, vegans, nudists, climate change activists and sexual fetishists.

    One might have thought that those who describe themselves as ‘liberal’ would defend freedom of speech, but they are in the forefront of those wanting to suppress it (for the best of reasons, of course).

    • milliganp says:

      John Nolan, I’m not sure what right-wing rag has stirred up your feelings but a direct quote from the Law Commission website reads
      “Reformulating the offences of stirring up hatred to focus on deliberate incitement of hatred, providing greater protection for freedom of speech where no intent to incite hatred can be proven.”
      This hardly sounds like you are in danger of going to prison for expressing personal views at home.
      Furthermore there is no mention of Punks, Goths or Vegans as protected classifications. They are merely suggesting that sex and or gender be included alongside sexual orientation. The final suggested possible addition is “age” (their use of quotes) I’m not sure if that proposal is to protect youth from the constant criticism of old codgers or to protect us old codgers from young people proposing compulsory euthanasia at 80!

      • milliganp says:

        Mea Culpa – I’ve read the extended entry on the Law Commission site and it includes:

        “The Commission is also consulting on whether other characteristics and groups such as age, sex workers, homelessness, alternative subcultures (such as being a goth) and philosophical beliefs (such as humanism) should be protected.”
        I perceive a very thin and powerful wedge being proposed. I await a legal definition of humanism (I presume one which would not with the usage of Saint Thomas More).

  26. John Nolan says:

    Paul Milligan

    There are serious concerns that freedom of speech and expression are being eroded and they are not confined to ‘right-wing rags’ (I assume you mean the Daily Mail which is now a better newspaper than the Telegraph, which I would not have envisioned thirty years ago). And there is also the internet to contend with.

    I post comments on this and other blogs under my real name. I don’t expect people to endorse my opinions, and the whole point of debate is to air different and indeed contrary opinions. But it’s not difficult to trace me and I would not like to think that I might be accused of ‘hate speech’ because some aggrieved individual has read one of my comments and decided to report it to the Old Bill.

    • FZM says:

      I’ve seen discussion of the Law Commission proposals on sites like Spiked Online, the contributors to that are mostly left-libertarians and anti-identity politics left wingers.

      There are already a fair number of issues with freedom of speech at the moment, police investigations, the cancelling of various figures, doxing and online/real world harassment.

      Another liberal comedian, Konstantin Kisin, had a show at the Edinburgh Fringe a year or two ago called ‘Orwell that ends well’ where he quoted the statistic that while there were 450 investigations for speech offences in the Russian Federation in 2018, there were more than 4000 in the UK.

    • milliganp says:

      Since the conversation on cats has rather dried up I thought I’d pop back to this discussion.
      The reason I post as milliganp is that there are thousands of Paul Milligan (s) in the world but only 1 of me. When I first started on the internet nearly 30 years ago the handle pmilligan was already gone so rather than being ptmilligan, I chose milliganp. However a search just carried our tells me there are now several milliganp(s). I’m not trying to hide my identity, just be unique.
      I’m sure there are several John Nolan(s) out there quaking in their boots lest your opinions on the glory of the Daily Mail be attributed to them – but given that the total readership of this blog is probably in the low teens, I suspect our worst fears are unlikely to be realized.

      The consultation which you raised concerns about specifically anticipated that private speech in small forums should not be subject to excessive legal strictures.

      However, having actually spent several hours reading the consultative document, several more urgent fears troubled me.

      The idea that Humanism could be legally defined as exclusively atheistic.
      That concepts like naturism and veganism could be defined as equivalent to religion.

      In the early church Christians were persecuted for being cannibals; will we end up with a vegan Catholic pressure group demanding a version of Holy Communion that doesn’t have any body or blood in it?

      I fear I may have overstepped a boundary.

  27. ignatius says:

    John Nolan writes:
    “(I assume you mean the Daily Mail which is now a better newspaper than the Telegraph, which I would not have envisioned thirty years ago). ”
    John, if you are reading the Daily Mail – holding close for more than 5 minutes or so, better not forget your Rabies innoculation…wouldn’t want you catching anything dear boy…

  28. David Smith says:

    milliganp (Paul) writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2020/10/27/back-to-the-bully/#comment-61750 ) :

    // Since the conversation on cats has rather dried up //

    I’m sorry it did. There’s so much left to say and think about on cats, on “pets” in general. For only one thing, in this horrible new reality that the politicians – the new dictators – have closed us into, our fellow man has become our mortal enemy, to shun and be shunned by and to fear, the companion animals – chiefly cats and dogs – remain, so far at least, free from official opprobrium. We may still touch them and converse with them close up, unafraid. I can envision that coming to an end, as it’s discovered we and they are no less mutually lethal than Homo infectus and Homo infectus, but so far, we’re free of such nonsense. Which is good, for both sides – their daily physical needs are tended to by us as our hearts and souls are ministered to by them.

    // The consultation which you [John Nolan] raised concerns about specifically anticipated that private speech in small forums should not be subject to excessive legal strictures. //

    Oh, I think we’re all under interdict, Paul. So far, though, it’s implied, rather than declared openly. It’s increasingly obvious that our “leaders” see us as totally answerable to them in all things, both body and mind.

    // However, having actually spent several hours reading the consultative document, several more urgent fears troubled me.

    The idea that Humanism could be legally defined as exclusively atheistic.
    That concepts like naturism and veganism could be defined as equivalent to religion. //

    That they believe they have any business telling us what those things mean troubles me. As does the acceptance, through both assertion and silence, of that conviction by the wider society.

    // will we end up with a vegan Catholic pressure group demanding a version of Holy Communion that doesn’t have any body or blood in it? //

    Alas, that can’t be ruled out as ridiculous. It’s clear that people in large numbers will believe just about anything that’s presented to them in a logically and emotionally pleasing package.

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