Whilst looking through an old photo album tonight I came across a bunch of negatives and old developed photos from 1982.
My first thoughts were to tear them up and bin them, throw them out, discard of them and never ever see them again....but the memories will never escape me. The torment, fun poking, pushing, shoving, spitting and finally violent fights.
During my years at Kirrawee High School I seemed to have seen the lot.
Whilst I recall some of the times as outrageously funny or mischievous for the most part I hated the social, peer relatedness of fellow students and a few teachers who remain in my forgiveness thought bubbles.
A number of peers from that period have remarked that what they recall of me was this shy kid, skinny geeky kid that got picked on from year 7 till year 10, who hung out with no one in particular.
A kid who hid in the art room, in the dark room and in the manual arts storerooms away from other kids. A kid who mainly spoke with teachers, good-two-shoes, suck-hole, dog, and a string of other obscenities not worth repeating.
My camera was a weapon to them and they knew it.
I had it smashed from hands twice but not before I captured many, many photos of all the people I am now outing to the world in my small exhibition set. You can see that set of photos here - http://www.alexanderhayes.com/#/kirrawee-high-school/
Teachers who delighted in abject cruelty and whose favourites were the worst of the bullies in the school.
So why was I bullied?
I was sent to school with leather shoes on, polished, carrying a Stanley Stamford suitcase....I hated that case. I did everything I could to kill it but it wouldn't break. So I had to keep carrying and get it wrenched out of my hands.
My clothes were always spotless and I just did not fit in with anyone. I hung out at recess only with kids that were too fat, too tall, had red hair or who were too smart in their grades to be considered as "in".
Even those kids picked on me and also I ended up in fights physically with them also.
The one day I flipped, lost it. Three continuous years of taunting, getting spat on, shouted at, things thrown at.
My anger just got to a point that wasn't prepared to take it any more. I head butted Gary so hard in the face he cartwheeled down E-block stairs and was knocked unconscious...laying there on the ground, blood pouring from his broken nose.
The pool of blood, the screaming, the "your fucking dead Hayes" from his mates all swirled in my head as I stood their fascinated...not moving just watching that blood come out of his face. The pool of blood grew bigger and everything became silent finally fading away into a white cloud as I too had hit the concrete...fainted.
I do not recall any pain what so ever from getting 5 of the cane by the Science Master who had gracefully reduced it from 20 of the cane and being expelled for a week. Just a very deep sense of power. My Brother fought one of my fights on the school oval and that partially solved the taunting but then the fights started to come on.
I recall being ambushed in the National Park one day by a bunch of kids that had quietly followed me home from high school to confront me. I went ballistic as soon as I sensed they were going to set on me and broke one of the boys wrists with a stick I had in my hand and bit a hole in another kids cheek.
The others didn't hang around long... with the other two not far behind them, me screaming like a possessed banshee. I recall having to answer to one of the kids Father's shortly after as to "what on earth I thought I was doing" and just staring at him blankly and then I recall walking away ignoring him as he screamed abuse at me.
Bullying was so pervasive, invasive, everyday, continuous and in some instances supported by teaching staff that I can scarcely remember in the whole time I was at that school a time when bullying was not rife, across all year levels.
By year ten I carried a Tiger school slouch bag, wore ripple soles and came to school with a skinhead, a permanent scowl and no one went near me. By year 11 the hair was back and by year 12 ( in 1986) I was known as the best contact in the school to score gunga and most likely to be called in by the police on any local issue that ended up back at the school gates.
In total I'd say I was caned at least 100 strokes of hardened rattan cane on my hands and ass during my time at Kirrawee High School. Caned for everything from tipping a kilogram of ball bearings during a period break down A block stairwell, stealing pencil cases, pinching girls bums (sorry Sharon and Michelle), ripping pages out of the Geography text book, instigating a whole school fruit fight, super glue up all the locks in E-block...and the list goes on
My Year 12 year book profile says it all. What an angel I look like...
So in reflection, bullying ripped me apart as a child growing into an adult alongside adults who thought that caning me repeatedly was the answer to helping me understand the rules of the school, amidst the carnage of rules that were constantly being broken by the teachers.
Bullying was a scourge, made me feel violated, abused, hurt and lowered my self esteem considerably. It contributed to my recalcitrance but somehow I still managed to top grades throughout my schooling.
I felt alienated, not wanted and finally totally an utterly alone.
Bullying still continues in just about every school, every institution, every workplace.
I have never been any where in my 46 years where some form of bullying, alienation, segregation, division or social sorting wasn't happening....it seems like it is at epidemic proportions and I do not have any answers for dealing with it for anyone other than;
- Confront it - even if you end up with a broken jaw;
- Report it - each and every time;
- Do not tolerate it - no forms, no jest, no enrolment.
I do not tolerate bullies and have repeatedly stood my ground with the most insidious of snide, bitching, moaning, whining, foul mouthed trash of people....but forgive them continuously provided they change their ways quick smart.
I've lost my job, put it on the line and put myself at great physical and emotional risk by defending the rights of others in the same situation also....inside jails, in schools as a teacher, in social groups....
I grow another foot higher when confronted by those who seek to bully me, look into their third eye and keep calm.
I dont suffer fools gladly.