H.O.W.: The Bystander Effect and How to Regain Our Humanity
Is It MY Duty to Care for Others?
It is a question visited by the world's most influential philosophers and average men alike. What do I owe my fellow man? Human beings have been questioning their moral obligations to one another for centuries. Theorists of the current modern temper suggest that we owe nothing at all to our fellow man. Consider the thoughts of America's first public intellectual from Emerson's Self Reliance:
"Do not tell me of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Published on the heels of the American Industrial Revolution, it became evident in the post Puritan 1800's that society's most profound influences were advocating a society in which each person looked out for himself only.
The Bystander Effect
The Bystander Effect is a real psychological phenomenon in which people assume that someone else will step in to help a human or animal in need. A psychological theory of groups, the theory has proven that if more than one bystander is present at the scene of an emergency, neither of the bystanders will help as they assume someone else will step in to take care of the problem.
The assumption that someone else will provide assistance is labeled as the diffusion of responsibility. Some people in groups do not help others because they assume another person will take care of the problem. Other's feel that it is not their responsibility and don't intervene because they feel it is the duty of the police or other agency.
Applying the Bystander Effect Globally
When applied globally, the bystander effect allows people all over the world to go about their daily lives without much consideration for those in need. Few people outside of a few humanitarian and Christian groups put real effort into feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, stopping abuse against children and animals, and fighting for human rights for those who have been denied theirs.
The Bystander Effect is a worldwide problem in which human beings do not worry about those in need because they assume that humanitarians of the the world will help the people that need it.
Sadly, not only do people worldwide lack the desire to help those in need, they shirk away from any situation that reminds them that their help is needed and they are just a few links away from those of need in the chain of human life. People avoid immersing themselves in tragic social issues because it makes them UNCOMFORTABLE and some find the discussion of such issues as a personal imposition upon them. We live in a world of apathy in which society ignores those in need as bystanders avoiding the discomfort of feeling compassion for others.
Sometimes people are not uncomfortable when faced with the harsh realities of the world we live in. Some feel a sense of powerlessness when confronted with sorrowful topics. There are situations in the world which are so severe, many feel there is nothing in the world they could possibly do to improve them. No one person on the planet can move these mountains alone, but every person in the world can contribute the slightest gesture and inspire another to do the same which could eventually make a big impact on the state of the world in which we live.
Should Government Enforce Voluntary Socialism?
In the United States, Good Samaritan Laws protect those who go out of their way to help someone in need from erroneous litigation. For example, if a person does CPR on another and accidentally cracks the victim's rib, most courts would over look this because the helper acted with honorable intentions.
China is a country that does not have this law.
The Case of "Granny Zhang"
As originally reported in the Global Times in 2010, 77 year old "Granny Zhang" fell in the streets of China. She was quickly assisted by middle school student Wan Xin who attempted to help her stand. Immediately, Zhang started yelling out loud that Xin had harmed her. Xin's mother came to the scene, escorted Granny Zhang to the hospital, and paid $20,000 of Zhang's medical expenses. Upon her release, Zhang filed a lawsuit requesting Xin's mother pay an additional 30,483 Chinese dollars for the remainder of her expenses. Fortunately, Zhang's case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Because there are no Good Samaritan Laws in China, the bystander effect is rampant. Chinese citizens fear helping others in need or danger simply because they fear being erroneously sued. China is now in the process of creating Good Samaritan Laws similar to the United States to protect those who assist others with the intent of helping them in an urgent state.
As demonstrated, the bystander effect is fueled by apathy, as well as the fear of being sued for stepping in to assist another. Sadly, the governments of countries are left to legislate these problems.
What Do We Owe Our Fellow Man?
As the most advanced species on this planet, humans are the only beings capable of altruistic behavior. For some, this is reason enough to believe that this alone creates the obligation and need to help others. Reaching out to help a human being is a personal decision for every individual. Do we owe anything at all to our fellow man? No. Are we morally obligated to help one another? We ARE if we make the decision to be.
What Kind of World Do You Want to Live In?
It is no secret that our humanity is at stake in today's society. With so many tragic social situations in the world from poverty, hate crimes, wars, racism, murder, to greed, and so on, the evil in the world takes its toll and hardens even the softest hearts.
Every single one of us contributes to the environment in which we live. This is true on a micro level in our own homes to a global level in the impact our thoughts and actions leave on the world. We must each ask ourselves what kind of world do we want to live in? Are we going to bystanders as the fragments of our humanity decay further?
Philosopher Immanuel Kant says it best. Unless each individual CHOOSES to act in manner which benefits his fellow man, the world can be a treacherous place.
"We must impose the forms of space and time on all we perceive, we must suppose that the world we experience functions according to natural laws, we must regulate our conduct by reference to a self-legislated categorical imperative, and we must postulate the noumenal reality of ourselves, god, and free will—all because a failure to do so would be an implicit confession that the world may be meaningless, and that would be utterly intolerable for us."
~Immanuel Kant in "The Moral Order
Read Kant's "The Moral Order" here:
- Kant: The Moral Order
A survey of the history of Western philosophy.
An experiment: Bystander Effect
Join the Humanity One World Movement here:
- About H.O.W. | H.O.W. Humanity One World
H.O.W. is a movement that is the dream child of Bill Holland (better known as Billybuc on Hubpages). It has a simple goal. To unite all humanity in seeking ways to unite all peoples across the world.
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