Or I should say, “Read These, Not Those.”
The Bystander Effect. Most of us know it as not helping a fellow human being who has called out for help or appears to be in physical distress when there are numerous observers. As Natlee75 remarks, however, it could be as simple as not speaking the truth…and as serious as a recent headline news story. The entry may be too frontal cortex-heavy for anyone who needs a shot of espresso before doing any critical thinking in the morn, but it really got me juggling two opposing viewpoints, which Natlee75 touches upon in two paragraphs in the bottom of his post.
To re-phrase, how can man be so evolved intellectually and philosophically but then succumb to altruistic paralysis when someone is in need of help? What is more unfortunate, to be in duress and manage to garner an audience of more than two? Or for every person that walks by to keep on walking? A list of possible explanations suggests that the number of people around is irrelevant.
No good deed goes unpunished. In the escalating adrenaline of the moment, fear as well as good intentions could very likely override a person’s ability to analyze the potential consequences of his actions. So, if you decide you are going to help, say, a car accident victim, and for some reason don’t just call 911 and get as close to the mangled car as possible and keep the injured individual talking. If, instead, you choose to take it upon your non-rescue-trained self to really do something, your help could do more harm than you thought. This man learned the hard way.
If we agree that reality is varying shades of gray (rather than black-and-white), whether or not you help your fellow man and the extent to which you offer assistance would necessarily be assessed on a case by case basis. Ideally, you’d be able to make that choice without fear of guilt or prosecution. Moreover, there’s a scale of helpful/harmful behaviors and actions contextualized with degree of consequence.
On one side, there is Good Intentions Gone Horribly Wrong, on the other side is Received With Much Gratitude, and in the middle is No Actions Taken. Generally, helping someone bring in their groceries or opening a door or holding their place in line would be on the side between No Actions Taken and Received With Much Gratitude. It’s more of a favor. Yet, I imagine that you can conceptualize a situation in which carrying someone’s groceries to their car would result in something regrettable.
Any act that is meant to relieve another person’s pain, no matter the context, could go either way. The person in pain could be supremely appreciative or irate…depending on whether or not the aid you facilitated or administered ultimately produced favorable or unfavorable results.
I’d like to think that there’s a meta-balancing act between the multiple pendulums that govern human interactions. Those individuals that are afraid to ask for help vs. those individuals that don’t want to get involved. Think about all the people that you know and who have ever been the victim of someone else’s deception, violence, manipulation, inconsideration, or all of the above. How many of them confronted the wrong-doer? How many of them filed a police report and pressed charges if applicable? Now, think of all the people you know that wouldn’t hesitate to “do something,” anything if they were to witness an illegal act happening in their line of sight? Which list is longer?
Two Penny: Brian Westbrook’s Monday concussion.
Three Penny: More Coke in Atlanta.
Four Penny: NBA Digital deal.
Five Penny: The Leaves on the trees are falling.