Rod Kersh
Person-centred physician

The haters hate – a take on the college encampments

Not quite dumplings. Kit's pyramids. By Rod Kersh 2024.

I remember, a long, long time ago when I was a child, occasions when I was picked-on by others. In today’s language you might say I was bullied, although, in my memory that only came later once I qualified a doctor.

The snipes, japes and attacks were mostly benign, laughing either at my Jewishness, my name, ineptitude at sport, or skin colour.

Named Rodney and a sensitive soul, I was ripe for attack.

I remember one child being particularly obsessed by my precocious upper lip hair.

  1. I was called names.

Want to know what else?

I would call names.

I was, although, I didn’t perceive it at the time, a bully.

People who were too fat or too thin, spotty or whatever.

I won’t dredge the past as I am embarrassed by those long-ago actions which are likely still raw in the hearts of those I goaded.

Perhaps you, reader, were and are a pure soul. Free from prejudice, judgment, or envy. Possibly you have never joined-in with the crowd or, equally egregious, remained quiet when others were attacking.

As I matured, I carried this guilt and tried my best to undo the wrongs. No, I am not a paragon of virtue, although I aspire to goodness.

Where do the haters fit in?

Something I noticed in my own children is that they, unlike my 1980s bad behaviour, convey goodness. I do not think either of them have either been active or passive bullies. Often in the past 20 years, they have kept me right, challenging my prejudices and judgments.

Something it seems has changed in the way young people behave and approach the world.

They are sensitive. Perhaps they are taught the fallout from such actions. Victimisation or objectification as I later learned this to be, were seen as some of the worst behaviours.

Almost as bad as not switching off the light in my empty office. Or, maybe smoking a cigarette, drink driving or feeding the ducks white bread. Almost.

I cannot disagree with any of this. Attacking others for the shape of their nose, the presence or absence of facial or other hair is not good. They are amongst the worst aspects of humanity.

To summarise.

As a child, I would occasionally attack others for behaviours or physical or other characteristics. In turn I was attacked.

Now, my children regard such behaviour as taboo as worse than worse.

OK I get it.

I want however to revert to the reasons for my childlike behaviour.

Part of this was no doubt because of the social milieu in which I lived, influences from my parents, siblings, the media (TV) and others.

I also think there is something inherently human about wanting to be in the in group, to perhaps marginalise or stigmatise others.

Last night I watched episode six of David Attenborough’s Mammals. In the forest the chimps were hunting a troupe of accidental monkeys.

The planning, coordination and emotionless killing were chilling, so too the similarity to human behaviour, from the innocent baby’s gaze to the scene in which the lead chimp dug down to find a lump of hidden honey; another inferior ape waited for him to share. No luck.

We are a combination of civilised monkeys and sophisticated apes.

Some traits run deep.

I have seen this in the behaviour of the college campus protesters.

Some are peacefully waving Palestinian flags. In solidarity with the situation in the Middle East. Some have gone feral and taken-on the mantle of Hamas, calling for the destruction of Israel, a one-state (Palestine) solution and so on.

They shout death to Israel and death to the Jews.

They scream at the top of their voices, hurling threats and violence, chanting, calling, attacking.

They remind me of Arthur C Clarke’s hominids.

Functioning from raw emotion.

And here we have the concatenation of action and event.

Some, the most sophisticated and intelligent youth in our society – can listen to half a story, turn it around and use it as a weapon. They manage to ignore the Hamas atrocities, the complexities of the Israel-Palestine peace processes, Camp David, Oslo, Vivian Silver, peace camps, intifadas and the rest and take one side and attack.

It is this attack that reminds me of primate Berserkers.

They are, as per the Tchernichovsky poem, the dumplings that have been over-stuffed with tolerance and memorisation, toeing the line to achieve outstanding school exam results spilling-over, bursting.

The anger is inside them; it always was and here it spurts.

Here they are given an opportunity to hate, a green light to attack.

We are all sophisticated apes.

All capable of great love and violence.

Most are happy to remain on the middle path avoiding extremes, getting on with their lives, some it seems, given the opportunity to form an encampment, inspired by memories of flower power updated to the 2020’s has found a home in hate.

Such a shame.

Some on the Right say we have overdone it.

Less of inclusion and diversity, let’s return to the old ways of attack and exclusion.

We cannot allow this, we must continue the evolution of our society in the direction of sophistication and sensitivity, we also need to acknowledge our frailties, we must be allowed to discuss the words that are only now inferenced.

Pretence of our moral superiority will leave us lost.


Listen, sense, reflect, respond.

About the Author
Dr Rod Kersh is a Consultant Physician working in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. He blogs at
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