Annual spring-clean up in our house means our boys each have to fill a large box with toys for charity — and it always brings back memories of my childhood. My twin brother and I didn’t have a lot of toys. My parents put everything they had into buying our farm, and building our home. Any money my father made went into buying shingles, wood or paint. Our home was an eclectic place and reflected the values of my parents – my father built polished oak bookshelves, but our living room had plywood where the door to the garden should have been. Our clothes were patched up hand-me-downs from our older siblings, but our house was filled with books.
In the late 70s most of the major banks wanted to get rid of what was they viewed as high-risk farm mortgages. They called in a lot of these mortgages and owners were expected to come up with the funds in 30 days. But once a bank called a mortgage, no other bank would touch it. A lot of people lost their farms and our family was one of them. We lost almost everything when the bank foreclosed and sold our farm for the value of mortgage owed (not even 1/4 of its value), but we were allowed to keep our furniture … and our books.
We moved from our farm into run-down house in the city. The house was in what was then the poor area of Burlington in the downtown core, filled with boarded-up old homes, low rent apartments, and community housing. At the age of 11 my brother and I found ourselves in a very different world; we went from building forts in the fields and forests, to exploring abandoned houses filled with drug addicts. At the farm school, most of the kids came from lower-income families and like us, they wore second-hand clothes, but there was more wealth in the city where the upper and middle-class kids came to school in designer jeans.
I was picked on, beaten up and bullied until I learned how to throw a punch, to stand up to the bullies and never back down. It only took a few good punches before my reputation began to spread. I discovered that most bullies are cowards, and by standing up to them, and yelling just as loudly, I could destroy their status. By high school they avoided me completely.
Like many kids from my neighborhood, I landed my first job in grade nine and worked every day after school, this separated me from the middle-class and rich kids who enrolled in after school sports. But my job gave me confidence and my vision expanded quickly beyond the vast majority of high-school kids who were pre-occupied with a need to fit in.
Back then the middle-class dominated, and kids from wealthy families were as much a minority as the low-income kids. The kids who focused on their studies were dubbed the school nerds (both low and high income). There was also a small group of wealthy kids who used their wealth to impress and insert themselves into every group. Driven by their misguided belief in their own superiority, they needed to be popular and enjoyed their influence over the majority of middle-class kids. Bullies to the core they would pounce on anyone who threatened their position. Spoiled by wealth they never excelled at anything, their only goal to hold influence over every group – jumping between the jocks and the druggies – they fit into both groups by amplifying their basest and most common attributes. From the class clown, to cool jock, to drug dealer they needed popularity and would do whatever it took to get it. As they aged they fell behind their peers, never having to achieve, their adult lives are a constant attempt to mimic their high-school years.
Even now I can spot the older versions of those high-school bullies. They still don’t fit in, often with radical views and poor judgment. Inheriting their wealth with no need to work hard for anything, they have bravado but lack the confidence that comes from true success. This stunted development (often noticeable in their vocabulary) leads to addiction issues with alcohol and drugs giving them bursts of false confidence. Some are drawn to politics for the power and influence they so desperately need.
These political bullies claim to speak for the average person, pretending to be just like them, they hide their sense of superiority behind crass language and campaign slogans. They loathe minorities, outspoken women, and anything that challenges their status. They pretend to hate the press but need the attention and are drawn to the media, like a moth to a flame. Their lack of personal development puts them at odds with their peers and often embroils them in scandals that seem to be self-inflicted. They work to destroy anyone who stands up to them, deflecting scrutiny, and denying anything that might compromise their support.
Unfortunately they know how to appeal to those with below average intelligence. Using slogans and propaganda, they stir up negative emotions – jealousy, division and hate – to fuel their supporters.
Like any bully, the only way I know to stop them is to punch them back, expose their lies, and never back down. Eventually their supporters will see them for the privileged and spoiled charlatans they are and abandon them.