Standing up to bullies

By Slow Dad - January 30, 2017

Our elected leaders are behaving like bullies. Their actions have hurtful consequences. The way to stop a bully is to stand up to them. So STAND UP!
Popular personal finance wisdom suggests that if you spend less than you earn, dollar cost average the difference into low cost diversified investments, and adopt a long-term time horizon then all things being equal you’ll finish up with a Hollywood style ending... slay the dragon, rescue the princess, and ride off into the sunset.

The principles behind that advice are sound, and for the most part they don’t care which political party holds government or who holds the reigns as leader. Most of the time that even holds true.

This blog is generally not about politics. However global events over the last twelve months have troubled me increasingly, until today I find myself getting cantankerous enough to go off on a proper “Angry Dad” rant.

Some childhood lessons we know to be true

When I was a kid we were taught to stand up to bullies.

When I was a kid we were taught to stand up to bullies.
My teachers and parents assured us that the only way to stop somebody picking on you was to stand up to them, show them that you wouldn’t stand for it. The argument went that if you make it easier for them to stop bullying you than to keep on doing it, then they would stop picking on you and seek easier pickings elsewhere.

Inevitably following such advice was not without consequences. In fact it was a bruising and attritional endeavour. By definition bullies think themselves to be larger and tougher and meaner than those they prey upon.

Often times they actually are.

When I was 10 years old the class dummy was getting picked on by a bully. This was a friendly kid who lost out in the lottery of life when his mother took heroin while she was pregnant. It wasn’t his fault he was born a bit slower than the rest of us, or that he didn’t choose his parents very well. This kid wasn’t my best friend, in fact it would probably be fair to say I didn’t like him all that much. It didn't matter. What was happening to him was wrong.

One day this kid was getting picked on by a bully, teased and pushed around. I didn’t think that was fair, and as the kid wasn’t standing up for himself I stepped in to stick up for him.

I wish I could tell you that I scared the bully away through sheer force of will. I wish I could recount a heroic battle in which I kicked the bully’s ass and sent him slinking off to lick his wounds.

Unfortunately I can’t do that, because that isn’t what happened. The bully beat me up, and put me in hospital with my arm broken in 6 places.

It would have been nice if somebody else done it.

It would have been great if my friends had my back when I stepped in.

It would have been unnecessary if the people in authority had done their jobs competently, and make sure we were all safe.

But here is the thing: I was right to stand up to the bully.

Our actions have consequences, and we should be held accountable for them.

Our actions have consequences, and we should be held accountable for them. 
My actions meant that for the rest of my life I have had a slightly crooked arm held together with surgical screws, that aches when the temperature changes quickly.

The kid getting bullied learned that there was an alternative to lying down and taking it, that he was not alone, and what it felt like to have someone in his corner.

My friends felt guilty about what happened, for not standing up for the kid who couldn’t stand up for himself, and for not backing me up against the bully.

A couple of weeks later, when the bully next tried to pick on the class dummy, things went differently. He got his ass kicked by a whole group of boys. He fled the playground in tears that lunchtime, and never returned to the school. He enrolled at a different school after the next school term, too afraid to face the consequences of his own actions.

Our actions have consequences, and we should be held accountable for them.
Our actions have consequences, and we should be held accountable for them.

Our leaders are bullies

In recent times our politicians and so-called “leaders” have really let us all down.

In the United Kingdom craven leaders entrusted a disaffected electorate to make a political decision about the future of the UK’s relationship with Europe. A divisive campaign full of hatred and vitriol and lies was run by both sides of the debate. Impossible dreams were sold to a voting public who were too stupid, too gullible, or too lazy to ensure they made a well informed decision.

The country voted to leave the EU, and those promises quickly vanished.

What happened to the snake oil salesmen who bullied and duped the gormless masses? Were they held accountable? No, they were rewarded with high ranking positions in the government.

In the United States a similarly divisive electoral campaign was recently held, and a bully singularly unqualified and unsuited to hold the position of president ran for the highest office in the land. Was he held accountable for the numerous lies he was caught telling during the campaign? No, he was elected as the leader of the free world.

Just like in the playground of my youth, if we do not stand up to bullies and hold them accountable for the consequences of their actions, they will continue to make our lives a misery.

The actions of bullies hurt people

Already ill-conceived and poorly thought through policies are adversely and unfairly impacting the lives of many.

European academics at many of Britain’s leading tertiary institutions are being told to prepare to go home. These people are validly living and working in the UK, permitted to do so by legislation and visas that have already been issued.

There would be outrage if the residents of Surrey were told to pack up and prepare to leave the United Kingdom in the same way these respected Europeans are being told to.

In the US people holding similarly valid visas and rights to reside are being prevented from returning to their homes and families due to an arbitrary reinterpretation of the existing rules, simply because of their place of birth or choice of religion.

There would be outrage if anyone born north of the Mason-Dixie line were told they could no longer return to the United States because of where they happened to have been born.

And so there should be.

What is happening this week is applying just as arbitrary a set of criteria to discriminate against people who have done nothing wrong. It is one thing to prevent admission of a person who has been tried and convicted of actually committing crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It is quite another to bar their admission based on no evidence or past patterns of behaviour, just because somebody in power believes it sounds popular to say that they might one day do something.

So what?

We must accept our own failings, that we should have stood up earlier and done more to prevent these situations from occurring.

We must hold our elected leaders accountable for the consequences of their actions.

We must take action now to prevent even more of these outrageous and unacceptable behaviours from occurring.

We must stand up to bullies.

What good is financial independence and early retirement if we lose the rights and freedoms required to enjoy them?

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  1. Great post here - thank you for standing up.

    The situation is outrageous and unacceptable as you very rightly describe it. This is not what freedom and prosperity feel like. This is what despotism and poverty feel like.

    Standing alongside you. -FL