The Age of Bullies : Part One


by Roxanne Tellier

Jodi, 2nd grade

As a child, my sister was often the target of bullies. Bullies sniff out the weak, the vulnerable, those who have already experienced the wrath of others. I spent a lot of my own childhood trying to protect Jodi from those who had nothing better to do with their time than to torment a shy, fragile, little girl.  

While I didn’t have much truck with bullies in school, once I was out in the work world, I quickly learned the Golden Rule; he that has the gold, makes the rules. Which meant that those who had better jobs, or more power in their position, could choose to use or abuse their underlings. I found it very hard to kowtow to people who were often not nearly as clever or capable as I was. Being a woman in the workplace last century was often an onerous, frustrating position. I’m sure for many women that it still is, in this century.

Eventually I chose to be an entrepreneur, to work for myself, rather than to work for others. It was just easier, being the boss. 

Generally, decent people are always trying to make situations work for everyone in a group. But whether you’re in the established business world, academia, the trades, or the arts, at some point, most of us will encounter grown up bullies who seem to thrive on making life miserable for others. Put a group of people together, and, sooner or later, someone decides they deserve a better, more special treatment than the rest of the gang.  

Some kids are just more aggressive by nature, but usually, bullies are made, not born. The behavior is usually learned very young, from an adult role model – a parent, a teacher, or a coach, for example – that is unable to handle anger well. A bully may have older siblings, who were bullied themselves, and so will bully a younger sibling to make themselves feel empowered. As a rule, a child learns to be a bully because he/she is not getting enough good parental attention, leading the bully to lash out at others for attention they need.

Grown up social bullies have poor self-esteem, although they’ll usually come across as narcissists with God complexes. They see the weak as contemptuous, and crave power and attention. They are unable to understand how their behavior makes other people feel, and simply don’t care about the feelings of others. They’ll dominate, play the victim, blame others, and never accept the consequences of their actions.

And that, in a nutshell, describes the political bullies that pull the world’s strings.

I first became interested in the stories behind the political news during the Stephen Harper Decade – he who was so convinced of his own infallibility and right to lead Canada that he literally rebranded the federal government the “Harper Government.” An excessively partisan break with tradition, and a slap in the face to the other parties that have helped shape Canada, taxpayers spent more than $85,000 in the first year alone of helping the Cons solidify their Golden Calf’s place in shredder history.

During Harper’s prime ministerial career, his bullying style attracted a lot of notice. The nature of his political discourse was belittling, contemptuous of the value of other political groups and ideas. By devaluing other parties, and brooking no collaboration with leaders with other input, he oppressed democracy in Canada, but so subtly that his enablers could paint Harper’s derision as simply ‘fighting back’ against his detractors.

Devaluing others is a product of insecurity, at best, and often grossly oppressive to the ‘out-group’ that is the target of the bully. When a country broadly paints another country as an ‘enemy,’ because of a warring history, or a current conflict, citizens pull together against a common enemy. But when that same contempt is expressed towards political equals, it becomes a form of bigotry, a marginalization of our own peers by denying or devaluing their abilities, and even their right to citizenship within their own country.

Harper regularly used bullying and open contempt in the attack ads used against opponents, from his slurs against Stephane Dion, then-Liberal leader in 2007, who dared to run against him, using ‘gotcha!’ video, and baritone voice-overs derisively asserting that “Stephane Dion is not a leader,” to his diatribes in 2008 against the sovereigntist Bloc Quebecois, whom he demonized as ‘the separatists.’    

And then, of course, there were the attack ads that branded Justin Trudeau as ‘just not ready,’ and a contrived ‘expose’ on young Trudeau’s participation in brownface makeup in an Arabian Nights themed event at the private school where he was a teacher in 2001.

I’m still hearing about that one from the Trudeau haters. There’s a fascinating 2019 article and investigation into that ‘scandal’ that was put together by Free the Press Canada. All signs seem to point to a high-level manipulation of information put together by powerful Conservative operatives.

When Harper was ousted from power in 2015, it felt like Canadians could finally take a deep breath of fresh, non-Harper air. But on June 7, 2018, one bully was exchanged for another when Doug Ford was sworn in as Ontario’s premier.  

Brother of bumbling Rob, Doug blew into Queen’s Park with a chip on his shoulder the size of the CN Tower, and a determination to make the city of Toronto pay for what he considered unfair treatment to brother Rob during his mayoralty. First off, and within what seemed like minutes of taking office, he was the first premier in Ontario’s history to use the Notwithstanding Clause to cut the number of Toronto’s city council – then in the middle of an election –  in half, an act of bullying so extreme that the City of Toronto appealed the law, arguing that it interfered with the rights to free expression and free and fair elections. (Follow up – the Supreme Court, in a split 5/4 decision, disagreed, on the grounds that the Charter Right applied only to federal and provincial legislatures, not to municipalities.)

Ford proceeded to throw his considerable weight around at Queen’s Park, ensuring that deep cuts to programs for Ontario youth, education, and health were passed, while ensuring that his long-time cronies found a friend in Ontario’s deep pockets and green spaces.

History will paint an interesting picture of Ford’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ford’s bumbling reign came on the heels of Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, and people often noted their similar natures. Born to privilege, and convinced of their own special ability to lead, Ford’s bullying nature paled, however, in comparison to the vigor of Trump’s.

And if Trump, a master bullier and wannabe dictator, soared to loftier heights of mock victimhood and ‘fake news,’  his gilded First Lady left the world speechless when she announced her “Be Best” anti-bullying campaign, based on her belief that she was ‘the most bullied person in the world.”

Next week: World Class Bullies and where they live

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