Bystander effect proof of selfishness, unreliability

By: Sanah Faroke / Contributing Writer

When we are attacked, one thing we should be able to rely on is someone, anyone to intervene. More often than not, spectators do nothing to prevent or stop injustice when they have the full capability to do so. Not every situation involves an onlooker who is able to help, but if there are people laughing at the spectacle rather than helping the victim, then there is a definite problem.

On March 7, 2011, Detroit resident, Justin Alesna, 23, was verbally and physically attacked by a man in a gas station for standing too close in line. The Detroit Free Press reported that Alesna mentioned he was gay, so the assailant decided to punch Alesna twice in the face. According to Michigan Live, when Alesna pleaded for the clerk to call the police, he refused. “He didn’t want to deal with the mess,” and witnesses laughed at the brawl.

Situations like these where the innocent are attacked and onlookers refrain from interfering is called the Bystander Effect. Psychology writer Kendra Cherry reports that the greater the numbers of witnesses, the less prone people are to intervene. According to a 2002 study by Dr. Mark Levine, observers are also more likely to take action if they can associate with the victim. The alarming truth is that, by and large, nothing is done by civilians to help another because we are so focused on ourselves, and we all know that this is true in one way or another.

Other than that, since it is easier to not take responsibility for our own actions, it is even harder to be liable for someone else, thus allow the expectation that another bystander will jump in- “the diffusion of responsibility.” Passersby intentionally do not acknowledge the conditions because it is “insignificant.”

The dilemma that constantly occurs is whether or not we intend to do nothing. We either do not care for others because we care too much about ourselves or we are more comfortable following others despite our moral consciousness. Like a domino effect, if a bystander happens to help, on a rare occasion, a victim who was injured at a local gas station, metro or even in our Blue and Gold community, as soon as one person helps, everyone else decides to come to the rescue. Suddenly, everyone is a Good Samaritan.

We care for the animals that are tortured, so we join PETA. We care for the environment, so we get a Prius. We care for people that are affected by natural disasters, have disabilities, lack economic income, so we donate money. Our humanitarian efforts just happen to stop when we find a situation where we can be hands-on, reach out to help someone right in front of our eyes because we just rather not get our hands sticky.

I would hope that someone else’s life is important enough to save. It is incomprehensible that people would remain a passerby if they had the chance to intervene. I would like to think that this would not happen in a modern “moral” civilization.

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