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My life as a bully

By Tim Kroenert - posted Friday, 5 August 2011

We passed Paul's house each day on the walk to primary school. One day on a whim we knocked and invited him to join us. Once out of sight around the corner we proceeded to berate him, and to rough him up. Not my idea, but I went along. We thought it was such fun that we did it again the next day.

On the third day, his mother answered the door, and sent us on our way with a menacing reproach.


Later, there was Sean. Frequently our friend, constantly our fall-guy. Day trips to Ringwood Lake or into the city morphed into endless verbal assaults against hapless, loyal Sean. Far too easy to get sucked into the psychology of the group: our collective strength, his individual weakness.

Kids can be cruel. I'm ashamed to say I was.

Finally there was Travis. On a church camp we handcuffed him to a pole, poured soft drink in his lap, paraded about him in uproarious glee. Then quietly released him when he started to cry — a wailing sob that overran his brazen laughter. We'd thought it was a game. It wasn't. Never had been." href

I had my bullies too. But if that explains my behaviour, it doesn't excuse it. It doesn't matter that I was not the ringleader. Whether sadistic shepherd or sheep, to these bullied boys I was simply a shit.

For the past two weeks I've served as a member of the TeleScope jury at Melbourne International Film Festival. This official capacity has at times been subsumed by powerful personal responses. Several films have again unearthed these distant but still guilt laden memories. Films that reflect upon the ways and reasons that children and adolescents exercise power over each other.

She Monkeys (Sweden) portrays teenage gymnast Emma's (Mathilda Paradeiser ) relationship with her teammate, Cassandra (Linda Molin ). In this competitive environment they are equally colleagues and opponents, and this tension expands beyond their sport and into their friendship in general.


The relationship is marked by seduction and sensuality and lashings of sadomasochism. But these things are more about power than sex. Ultimately the power games escalate to a point where both girls are damaged by them, either physically or morally.

Ideally, such hard lessons lead to the eventual discovery of compassion and forgiveness. She Monkeys ends before we see if this is the case with Emma and Cassandra.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers (Italy) could be a thematic sequel. It records the echoes of childhood trauma, including bullying, that continue to resonate in adulthood. It weaves together the present and the past to expose the lifelong effects of these traumas.

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This article was first published in Eureka Street on August 4, 2011.

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About the Author

Tim Kroenert is the Assistant Editor of Eureka Street.

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