The Bystander

You’re on a train and there’s an elderly person standing. All the seats are taken, including yours. You’ve had a long day and really want to sit but you’re just about to… ah, someone else has offered their seat. Now you feel bad but you were going to, you just got beaten to it. What about if you’re standing also but nobody is offering their seat to someone with obvious frailty. Do you speak up on their behalf? Or do you just remain silent?

Now what about a more serious situation. What about a car crash? Someone is trapped and you’re able to help but you’re scared. You think that someone else will come to the rescue at any moment. But they don’t. But you’re scared. So you do nothing.

This is the bystander bias. We see something but do nothing because we think someone else will. Instead we must ask “If not me, then who?” and act accordingly. In this excellent series of posts The Art of Manliness goes into a lot more detail about how we can be more like sheepdogs than sheep.

The main thing to take away is that standing up for what’s right, taking action, doing things that make us scared is like flexing a muscle. You wouldn’t expect to lift an extremely heavy weight without training and the same applies to getting involved rather than being a bystander. Start with the small stuff, and the bigger stuff will be easier.

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