Sunday, 15 August 2021

The power of the perception of power

I was an arrogant, bigmouthed teenager. I talked a lot because I found listening to myself less boring than listening to others.

Every now and then I had a bit of bother from these attributes. One time my big mouth got me into a fight with the school bully.
We had a verbal altercation at a bus stop; bully angry, “tomorrow, lunchtime, in the school playground”.

I had interfered with a perceived power relationship and had to pay for that. He was the bully and ruled. I was perceived to be weaker and supposed to appease not oppose him.

The next day I was in the playground at lunchtime (I may have been reciting poetry to myself or taking part in some other worthy intellectual activity, as was my want). 
He had not forgotten his threat and walked over to me, flanked by his followers.
They started chanting: fight, fight, fight. Soon all the kids in the playground were chanting the same thing.

A large circle was formed with the bully and me inside at opposite points.
I looked over at him and, surprisingly enough, he seemed somewhat apprehensive. After all, we had never met before the altercation and he usually did not have to fight people his own size.

We rushed at each other. I tripped him and then sat on him. There was not much he could do after that.
Some teachers came barging through the circle and the fight was over.
I had won.

Nobody at the school ever physically confronted me after that.
My tripping him was a fluke, but it created a perception of strength/power.

Some five years later I had a visit on my kibbutz from Dennis. He was the younger brother of a Jewish schoolfriend from my class. Dennis was three years behind us at the same school. 
I had hardly ever spoken to him before as I did not mix with the lower years.

Dennis thanked me. I asked him, why?
He said before my fight he had been bullied for being a Jew.
After I won he was left alone. They knew I was a Jew and friends with his brother, and did not want to mess with me.

What a difference a lucky trip can make.

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