This is possibly the saddest story I've ever heard.
A pal told it to me tonight. He was walking through a leafy affluent South Dublin suburb yesterday, passing a very expensive and prestigious boys school as they were letting out at the end of the school day.
He noticed one lad, slightly taller than another, torturing the second boy. He had him in a grip around his neck and was wrestling him to the ground. Other boys were watching. None of these boys were older than ten, apparently. All small children really.
As he wrestled his prey to the ground, the taller lad was jeering at the one he was persecuting. "Michael likes Thomas! Michael likes Thomas!" The gathered crowd of lads joined in with the chant. Soon, the poor lad on the ground was surrounded by his classmates all chanting 'Michael likes Thomas!"
My pal, passing by, was struck initially at how early homophobia appears to emerge among kids these days. But then he suddenly noticed a third lad, hanging back behind a tree away from the pack. This lad was completely dishevelled, as if he'd been assaulted himself, and was sobbing his heart out as he watched the proceedings.
Suddenly it dawned on my pal that this was Thomas. With a chill running down his spine, he realised it wasn't a case of homophobia at all. He suddenly saw that the bullying at this expensive, prestigious prep school was so appalling that not only was Thomas being bullied, but another boy Michael was being bullied solely on the basis of being friendly to Thomas.
That level of personal targetting is almost too appalling to contemplate. How isolated, how fearful must that young lad Thomas be on a daily basis? But at least, in a good expensive prep school, you'd expect the staff to jump on top of it, wouldn't you? Well, think on.
A teacher emerged from the school and walked straight past the debacle with only an over-the-shoulder comment. As she headed on, the bullying continued uninterrupted.
Is it any wonder that suicides are getting younger and younger?
Bullying is getting more serious in nature too. It's no longer name calling and the odd dig in the head.
Last week in Galway, a young girl was grabbed by a gang of boys, bound with tape, her mouth stuffed with a scarf and was sexually assaulted while others watched, laughed and filmed the assault. The school's response? Three day suspensions for the cowardly little rapist-wannabes involved.
Three days home from school as 'punishment' for aggravated sexual assault on a young, vulnerable girl? Those boys ought to be doing six months in a Borstal right now, not lounging at home watching daytime telly.
It emerged this week that my own nipper has been suffering ongoing bullying at the hands of a gang of teen boys too.
What sort of spineless, weak, cowardly morons gang up on a girl? There's only two possible answers. The first is in response to those who excuse bullying on the grounds that the bullies don't realise the effects of their actions and were only 'having a bit of fun.'
There's a word for people whose idea of fun is to inflict pain on others. That word is 'sadist.' Research demonstrates that male children who express sadistic impulses are those most likely to go on in adult life to commit murder. So if a bully really is 'having a bit of fun', what they urgently require is constant monitoring and long-term counselling if they are to avoid a lifetime behind bars.
For the vast majority of bullies, sadism is not the motivating factor. For these boys, and perhaps the boys in Galway, I believe the motivating factor is their own crippling inadequacies as individuals. As stunted, weak, immature young males, they are driven by their own sense of insecurity to seek security in the comfort of a pack, just like immature male lions and other animals do.
Lacking the self-confidence to be fully rounded individuals, they shore up their sense of inadequacy by hiding in the herd. Without intervention or somehow becoming self-enlightened, these boys will be permanently trapped in their cycle of inadequacy, their lives capped and stunted by their overwhelming need to remain in scenarios where they are not challenged as individuals, where they can hide in a herd.
I've reported the abuse to the school of course, but I'm concerned that they'll respond like the teacher at that Southside prep school, with some cursory warnings that fail to prevent anything.
I don't mean to sound like a doddery old fascist, but this would not have happened in my day. Any boy, never mind a gang of boys, who so much as picked on a girl would themselves have been beaten to within an inch of their lives by their own peers for being so pathetic.
I reserve the right to deal with this my way too. The school has anti-bullying procedures, so they get first go at resolving this.
But if they don't succeed, I intend to get 'North Belfast' on the spotty, sweaty, pathetic little rugger buggers who require to gather in a gang to pick on a lone girl in order to shore up their stunted masculinity.
And by 'North Belfast', I mean I am entirely prepared to hospitalise each and every one of them, and go to prison if necessary.
It's win-win-win as I see it. My child is no longer bullied. These amoeba get to learn that there's always a bigger bully, a lesson that just might set them on the right path in life.
And I'd get a few weeks in Thornton Hall, where I hear the cells are going to be 'apartment-style' with flat-screen TVs. Nice.