Alan Turing's biopic, The Imitation Game brought back memories of lunches eaten in quiet corners of busy classrooms, being the only one in class nobody sat next to, being the only audience as the rest of the class played in PT, being termed 'unsocial' by teachers and 'psycho' by classmates, basically being the odd-one out for a better part of academic life.
Broadly speaking, Bullying, or Intimidation aims to humiliate an individual or group because of their 'perceived difference'. Aside from the fact that Turing was a genius, and socially awkward, the film primarily focuses on his feelings of persecution. A feeling that haunted him all through his life, the feeling of not belonging, of not being accepted in mainstream society, the very feeling that led to his untimely death.
As we leave high school, we believe the worst is behind us. That the world in front, the wonderful, positive world will finally treat us with the respect we deserve. That it won't look for every single chance to squash you like a bug. That you finally, will be a human being. That, you won't have to hide.
Surprise, surprise. The world, your new world, whether it be higher studies or your workplace, turns out to be exactly like your high school. Bullies everywhere. And if you are lucky to find someone like Joan Clarke who befriends you and guides you through your mistakes, you will be saved. At least, till the time the bullies don't find another reason to crucify you. Turing discovered the hard way that even though the War was over, his war wasn't.
And now, it wasn't just that he was socially awkward, it was something more: He was different. And isn't being different what bullies pick on? Doesn't it perplex you just a little that the stout kid who used to give you a wedgie every day on the school bus is now the local councillor? Or that your boss reminds you of the classmate who loved making fun of your flaws?
Hasn't that been the trajectory of our culture, electing bullies in powerful positions so they can feed on the insecurities of the marginalized?
The story of Alan Turing is a big blob of shame on our hero-worship fairy tales. It shows, just how far, we are ready to go to condemn and persecute those who think and act different. It doesn't matter how creative they are, if they have stopped wars or engaged in breakthrough scientific research. And the medium of discrimination, is really, just an excuse. If it's not religion, it's race. If not sex, it's sexual orientation. Sometimes, it's about not smiling much. At other times, smiling a little too much. Unlike Enigma, the reasons why those in positions of authority might like to bully you, is truly an enigma.
If you are different than the powerful few who like to call themselves 'majority', and are also socially awkward, then chances are, 9 out of 10 times you will be bullied. Most of us undergo this ritual in school, which gives some practice before professional life arrives with its golden promises. You think high school's all over when lo and behold, you are eating lunches alone again.
How to Combat Bullying?
1. Unity in Friendship- In school you might have been a loner. Just remember, in your adult life, you will have a larger number of minorities who, too, feel persecuted. Befriend them. We might like to hide when being bullied, but a better idea is to unite with like-minded individuals who are going through the same experience. Remember, bullies intimidate by alienating you, so the more people you have on your team, the better.
2. Speak Up- You can easily discern a bullied person from a non-bullied person in public. How? The bullied person never speaks up, in fact, he hardly speaks at all. And it is particularly, because of this trait that bullies think he's a rug, to be stepped on, over and over again.
This might be due to past experiences that the bullied person has faced. Perhaps, he tried speaking up and was humiliated and socially ostracized. Bullying injures your confidence and self-respect in ways no physical injury can. But this damage can be repaired through counselling. There is no shame in asking for help. It is more important to know that you are not alone and there are people who are there for you.
So, if counselling is what you need to be assertive, then get it. But it is essential to speak up. For now, you have no Headmaster to run to, rather he is the bully.
3. Understand the Nature of Bullying- Why is it that you are being bullied? Is it your sex, your race or religion? Is it because you are more competent or competitive? Understanding why you have been singled out is the key to understanding the nature of the bullies and what they hope to gain from intimidating you. Oftentimes, bullies are just insecure kids who are afraid or jealous of you. Find out their weakness, and the tables will soon be turned.
When governments or institutions bully common people, the reason is mostly politically or monetarily motivated. As said in 1, you need all the help you can get to combat bullying of this kind.
4. Understanding it is Mental, not Physical- One of the important aspects of Bullying is that it is MENTAL, although its expression, sometimes might be physical. All forms of bullying are intended to humiliate an individual and harm his self worth. It can be a mother-in-law bullying a daughter-in-law, a government bullying human rights activists, a corporate group bullying indigenous groups or, a senior colleague purposely humiliating a subordinate.
Bullying, or Intimidation, has been the most preferred weapon of choice of institutions and powerful individuals alike to exert control over apparently 'weaker' marginalized groups. This form of coercion, tragically, does not limit itself to criminal outfits; rather it is most prominent in areas of high legal authority. Alan Turing was a war hero, who refused to resort to lies or connections and was left alone in the face of a sham law.
A posthumous pardon granted by the Queen did little in bringing him or his honour back to life. The contribution Great Britain made in winning the War was owed largely to this national hero, but his country failed to give him his due recognition or even, dignity. Alan Turing died, a misunderstood man, victim of a law that persecuted him because he was different.
To that, we owe, every single man and woman ever bullied to be kind and empathetic to others. Remember that the next time you rudely treat a street hawker or your own student. You have no idea what they are going through.