Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Twice a victim

I'm all for fun and pranks of all kinds but bullying and ragging are not fun pranks.  Bullying and ragging are the same except that ragging (I won't use the American word which is getting increasingly popular but is still relatively unknown where I live and I mean to keep it that way) is just an organised form of bullying.  A group because of its size and strength or hierarchical position asserts control and dominion over an individual or group by humiliating, debasing or even hurting them.  Ragging usually takes place in schools, colleges and organised groups such as the army.

Someone recently sent me a video of ragging in the Thai military (see screen shot above).  It seemed more like harmless play as the recruits did a circle dance and sang (very badly) Loi Krathong.  But what annoyed me in the video were the senior officers in the Thai military.  They were busy filming the recruits.  It then occurred to me that the video that was sent to me must have come originally from one such officer.

Why would any sane man film a group of recruits doing a silly dance? There can only be one reason - to humiliate them.  After the dance, the recruits were only allowed a few seconds to wash themselves and it was time to leave the bathroom.  It was obvious that their bath time had been used up by the officers who ordered them to do the silly dance.

It is true that the recruits appeared to be in good spirits and the ragging was more amusing than abusive and there was a group of them so it was all quite harmless.

Here's a pic which I screen-saved from a video, the source of which I'm not at liberty to reveal because it was taken in a military facility and for this reason, I won't even state which country the video was taken in.

The pic is of course self-explanatory and it really is a perfectly harmless activity even if it's childish.  The target ("victim" would not be the correct word here) reacted with a string of Hokkien obscenities.  There is no abuse of military rank here, unlike in the Thai army ragging.  The target is a friend, totally accepted by the rest of the group and after this incident, I have no doubt their friendship remained intact.  Bullying or ragging is hardly the word for such an activity. 

Ragging in its more serious form happened in Singapore a few years ago in the Singapore Civil Defence Force or SCDF.  Here's what Asia One says:

(Source: http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20081107-98996.html)


What I find shocking and totally unacceptable is SCDF's decision to punish all parties including the victim.  SCDF concludes that the victim was a willing participant in the episode.

Here's what SCDF says:

(Source: http://news.asiaone.com/News/the%2BStraits%2BTimes/Story/A1Story20081124-102859.html)

Anyone who has seen the full uncensored video is sure to come to the conclusion that the victim was not a willing party in the affair.  It's true that the victim waved at the camera at one point but you don't have to be an expert in human behavioural science to understand what must have gone on in his mind.  He wanted to be good-natured despite the humiliation and he didn't want to appear weak.  But he was no willing participant.  His hands and feet were bound and his bullies were nasty and malicious.  They zoomed in on his face and his genitals to maximize his shame.  And they posted it on the internet and it even went on international sites that host videos of serious crimes such as the beheading videos by Muslim extremists.  The victim was thoroughly humiliated and debased.  The others may have urged him to say he consented to the whole thing so as to get them off the hook and he may have done that because of his good nature.  But SCDF should have known better.  Of course SCDF was dreadfully wrong.  By the disciplinary action they meted out to the victim as well, they have made the poor chap twice a victim.

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