Learning about 'no pain, no gain'

  • Lifestyle
  • Monday, 28 May 2012

“Tim*, I need RM10. Do you have it? Okay, give that to me!” demanded the confident, outgoing boy. The other boy nodded reluctantly. Young and gauche, Tim just wanted to impress Matthew*.

Tim dug deep into his pocket to take out his wallet. There were several pieces of RM10 and he took time to take the money to give to Matthew, almost as if to ridicule Matthew for not having any money.

“Give it to me!” said Matthew, lunging forward to snatch it out of Tim’s hand as he ran off in the direction of the canteen.

The next day, Matthew approached another boy, smaller than Tim, to “borrow” more money. He got RM5 as Chee Weng* did not have as much money. That day Chee Weng went hungry. Actually, he did not want to give his money to Matthew but he was compelled to as he was afraid.

Matthew’s fierce facial expressions and aggressive body language suggested that he was capable of hurting anyone who tried to defy him. Chee Weng had seen him raising his hand as if to slap another of his classmates who had refused to comply.

Matthew had been brought up to be tough. If he did anything wrong, he would be caned by his father. In fact, his father had no qualms about caning him in public. However, the good thing about him was that he did not retaliate, most probably because his father explained the reasons for his heavy-handedness and he was still not strong enough to overpower his dad.

Within two years, Matthew took over RM300 without paying anyone back. More than 15 boys had their money taken several times. His modus operandi was always to look at the victim straight in the eye, demand for money and quickly snatch the note as soon as the victim took it out of his wallet. His classmates thought at first that he would repay the money but as weeks turned into months and years, it became clear that Matthew had no intention of paying back what he took.

Finally, one morning, all the boys grouped together and reported the matter to the Head Teacher of Students Affairs and Matthew was brought in for questioning.

His father was informed and he came to the school. I saw for myself that he was a burly, strict and authoritarian parent. When he heard what his son did, all hell broke loose. He scolded, ranted and raved and in front of the teachers hit his son with a big rattan stick. It made me jump, too. Then he took out his wallet and proceeded to pay each of the students whose money had been extorted – some RM20, some RM15 and some RM30.

It was certainly a terrible time for Matthew as he was humiliated in front of his classmates as well as the teachers. His father then made a request – change Matthew’s class so that he would not have to face those he had bullied. Matthew was placed in a better class. But his troubles did not end there.

After the beating and the humiliation at the hands of his father, he had to face more embarrassment from the students of higher calibre than him. It was a bitter pill to swallow and the poor boy came to the Head Teacher of the Students Affairs almost begging to give him “face” by accompanying him to the class.

Now, that was really preposterous as it would constitute a promotion rather than a punishment. So, another lecture ensued.

“This is the consequence of what you have done! Have you ever considered how your victims felt when they had no food to eat because you took their money?” I asked the unhappy boy.

“Well, you will have to eat humble pie now and take it as a lesson that you’ll never, ever forget! Life is about learning from the mistakes and bad choices you have made,” I continued.

“Why, no pain, no gain!” I concluded.

So far he has been out of trouble as this group of students know little about why he changed class.

It is really fortunate that his bullying days were numbered or it could have turned out worse. In fact, he has become more responsible and has even curbed indiscipline among students by becoming a whistleblower.

Bullying in all forms and ways is common in schools as well as in society. Bullies are playing the “power” game. Being smarter, stronger, richer, more handsome or prettier shifts the power continuum to the bullies’ side. The sense of having power and playing on the feelings, emotions and state of mind of a “victim,” though considered sadistic, is prevalent among humans as well as animals.

It is like the way a cat plays with an already-wounded mouse and derives great satisfaction. The way to overcome the bullying is through excelling in academics, getting a good paying job, climbing the social rungs andgrowing stronger muscles.

And again that involves a lot of pain!

Patricia Wong

* Not their real names.

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