Victims of bullying, experts say, are typically anxious and insecure and have low self-esteem. They also may appear to lack humour, have few or no friends and tend to use money or toys as bribes to gain popularity or protection. The idea that some sufferers ‘ask for it’ has been widely discredited.
Hong Kong has recently witnessed a tragic case involving an individual called Donald. On two especially noteworthy occasions, boorish toughs have picked on him for no good reason at all, even accusing him of wrongdoing when all he wanted to do was good.
He tried to encourage everyone to buy energy-saving light bulbs; the bullies claimed, with no evidence, that he had a secret agenda to help his son’s wife’s father’s business. On realizing that an accusation of such long-distance nepotism was implausible, his detractors tormented him for not anticipating their allegations.
Then it became known that his brother’s wife had received help from her friend the legislator; more cries of favouritism rang out, though Donald was uninvolved and the assistance possibly left her worse off. (In my experience, intercession of a string-pulling acquaintance in the Legislative Council yields disappointingly meager results – probably why most people use triads.)
So now, like a big boy told by mama to roll his sleeves up and be a man – or shall we say (in the interests of drama) a wild beast cornered in a tight spot – Donald has angrily hit back about being smeared. Some people will be tempted to sympathize; Apple Daily, after all, compared him to Taiwan’s corrupt ex-president Chen Shui-bian. Others may think he is being over-sensitive as well as anxious, insecure and suffering from low self-esteem. Either way, he is mightily frustrated. And that brings us to the basic problem: however unfairly, some of the mud people are throwing at him is sticking.
It is unlikely that Donald will pause to ask why so many people seem to hate him.
It would take a lot of time. The list of reasons would stretch back to his furious banishment of pro-democrats into the wilderness after his political reform bill failed to get through in late 2005, and his “if you agree with me I will listen” approach to critics. It would cover numerous real or perceived instances of favouritism towards big business interests and the rich, and/or neglect of the weak and poor. Plus real or perceived insults for the in-betweens, like recent throwaway remarks intended to make the middle class feel good about not being able to afford a home. It would cover the undeniable widening wealth gap and his lack of a convincing response. It would cover a shift in the community ethos from admiration for those who have made it, to jealousy and resentment of the self-styled elite.
Anyway, it takes a big man to learn what he is doing wrong from his enemies. So Donald will no doubt get more paranoid, withdrawn, distrustful, anxious, insecure, etc. Once-loyal supporters, already tiptoeing to one side if you look carefully, will continue to edge away. He will make more mistakes, unless he has the good sense to play dead. And all the time the baying mob will surround him and poke him with sharp sticks and jeer and spit. Just like they did with Tung. Except maybe this will be less heart-breaking to behold: occasionally someone comes along who really does seem to be asking for it.