On March 13th, 1964 a young woman attempting to get home after her shift as a bar manager around 3 am, was accosted, stabbed multiple times and raped for 30 minutes as she was dying. She was 28 years old; the attack was heard by at least a dozen neighbors, some who heard her cries for help at the beginning of the attack, others at the end. Nobody aided her and the police was not called until the attack was finished.
This event caused quite an uproar about the callousness and apathy that was emblematic with life in big cities. The New York Times published an article by Martin Gansberg “Thirty-eight who saw murder didn’t call the police”. We know now that it was not 38 people but closer to a dozen that were aware of some portions of the attack, but most said to the police; “I didn’t want to get involved.”
As a result of the attack, songs, books, movies and several psychology papers and studies have been done. The psychologists that have studied the case have determined that the story is more parable that truth, though it is continually used as a teaching aid;
“Despite this absence of evidence, the story continues to inhabit our introductory social psychology textbooks (and thus the minds of future social psychologists).” One interpretation of the parable is that the drama and ease of teaching the exaggerated story makes it easier for professors to capture student attention and interest.” (American Psychologist, Sept. 2007)
The studies prompted by the case, created new terms(click on them for definitions):
Both of these phenomena have a bearing on our “Urban Jungle Society.” Recent events clearly demonstrate how both of these effects are affecting our society, and how they determine our reaction to events.
How did Ariel Castro the accused managed to maintain 3 women hidden for so long? His house is in the middle of a residential street, surrounded by other houses in close proximity. The neighbors have told reporters, that they knew of strange things going on in the house.
The say that Ariel only came in and out the back door, one neighbor claimed to call the police when he observed a naked women with a dog collar in the backyard (the Cleveland Police are denying this report). This might be just plain hindsight, or it could be that we are not as aware of the activities of others. This is where diffusion of responsibility and the bystander effect come in.
The attitude is it “none of my business”, is what allows a man to abduct 3 young girls, keep them captives for years and not one call to the police. We no longer live in a society where we look out for each other, we live a society that acts like a jungle safari, we ride along with windows closed, hoping, praying that the exotic animals don’t get in; while at the same we can’t help but be fascinated by them.
This is not an isolated case by any means, there are hundreds of other examples, where people have ignored signs or misdeeds because it is not their responsibility, or they are just bystanders. Just look in YouTube and there are thousands of videos by people of beatings, stabbings, fights most of which could have been prevented if we willing to help one another. Many feel that calling the police satisfies any civic duty they may feel. Now it is longer a problem; observing and filming the safari is the proper thing to do, so that they could share the wonders to others.
The same callousness and apathy also extends to other arenas, as it has been shown after the Congressional Hearings on Benghazi. 3 whistleblowers came forward to provide moving and firsthand accounts of the events on that fateful night of 9/11/12, the 11th anniversary of another terror attack. Accounts that clearly contradict the story told by the Administration and that at the very least demonstrate a naïvetés by the Administration with regards to the region and al-Qaeda or gross incompetence. It also points to the lengths they went to keep this from the rest of the American public, even if it meant embarrassing an ally, the Prime Minister of Libya, practically calling him a liar to the world. He announced that it was a terrorist attack; it was through the intervention of Libyan forces that the tragedy was not worse. As a result of this the FBI was hampered in its investigation and delayed for 17 days from reaching the site, which was contaminated by then.
This apathy and callousness was not only displayed by some congressman who tried to deflect the blame, but by the reporters, who saw the whole thing as another political grandstanding by the opposition party, to quote congressman Cummings, ” Death is part of life…”, this before he heard any testimony from the whistleblowers. The media have not been far behind, calling it a waste of time, another witch-hunt. Some suggesting that the Hearings are sexist, had it been John Kerry the SOS at the time and not Hillary Clinton, none of the blustering would ensue. Perhaps former Secretary of State Clinton put it best;
“Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they’d go kill some Americans? At this point, what difference does it make?”
In other words she was just another bystander, who was powerless to do anything. Now we are finding out that to some extent she setup the conditions that made it the attack possible, and when she had to make a decision to help those she put in danger, she just watched. In the following days instead of praising the personnel she abandoned and the Libyans that were injured and died, rescuing them, she lied; she blamed it on an obscured YouTube video that few had seen as the cause of the attack. She diffused her responsibility, if that video had not been shown none of what happened would have occurred. Regardless of the politics, she failed miserably at her task. She made decisions based on her hopes, ignored the warnings, tried to blame others to cover it up. We expect and need better from our highest government officials.
Another instance where government agencies, people, task to prevent this type of event failed terribly, the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic. This is a classic case of diffusion of responsibility, that allowed his practice to continue even though the few times they had inspected the clinic it found terrible conditions and substandard procedures. Yet, the clinic not only flourished but, received referrals from other clinics. You see Dr. Gosnell was a pioneer and he was willing to do what more responsible clinics would not do, illegal late-term abortions. This being one of the sacred cows in politics, the MSM did not see fit to report on this case.
Furor, mainly driven by the bloggers caused the MSM to cover the story, which many did in a peculiar way. They would write a story about the furor because of the lack of coverage of Dr. Gosnell and his trial, in doing so they reported the story by reporting about their lack of coverage. The MSM did this to avoid the appearance of reporting on an aspect of abortion that would put the abortion issue in a negative light and bring it back to National attention. The media became bystanders to a major story, letting bloggers and others tell the story, avoiding the appearance of objectivity. The media avoided the bus to the safari to avoid reporting that in the wild, sometimes the strong are cruel and kill the innocent.
Now we have an opposite story, this is the story of a young man who saw it as a duty to look out for neighborhood. One time he saw another young man beating a helpless homeless guy on video. The guy who did the beating was the son of a local police lieutenant, and it seems he would get away with beating the helpless old guy. This young man decided not to be a bystander on the safari, but to act he sought help from an organization that was founded with the goals;
To promote equality of rights and to eradicate caste or race prejudice among the citizens of the United States; to advance the interest of colored citizens; to secure for them impartial suffrage; and to increase their opportunities for securing justice in the courts, education for the children, employment according to their ability and complete equality before law.
The organization could not, would not or was not interested in joining with this young man to demand and accounting for the misdeeds of the cop’s son. Undaunted the young man decided to do something on his own; he printed flyers, went to local churches and spoke at a town meeting. The cop’s son was arrested, an investigation was launched and now the organization that had shown little interest before became the old person’s advocate.
This young man was not done, within his community a crime wave was affecting his community (in a little over a year 411 calls to 911 have been made by the community, only 8 of which were from him), with the help of the local police and community a neighborhood watch was form with the young man as one its captains. He decided not to be a bystander anymore, and actively help make his community safer. Anytime he saw something wrong he would inform the police, who usually arrived too late to do anything about it, or catch the suspect. This went on until on one occasion on his way to the store to run an errands, he observed another young man entering the community through a cut through, he appear to be walking aimlessly in the dark cold night. As was his custom the young man, park his truck to call the police to report what he had seen, following the instruction from the dispatcher he attempted to maintain visual with the suspect, something that was hampered by the darkness, on that rainy night. The suspect noticed the surveillance at some point and fled using a dog path, between rows of condos. The young man no longer able to maintain a visual on the suspect left the relative safety of his truck, in an attempt to maintain a visual and gather an address to provide the police, who he hoped was arriving at any minute. He stayed on the phone with the dispatcher for an additional 2 minutes after he lost visual contact with the suspect, towards the end of his call he tells the dispatcher;
“It’s a home. its one-nine-five-zero, aw crap, I don’t want to give it all out, I don’t know where this guy is.”
30 seconds later the call ends, the young man is waiting for the cops to call to give them directions to his location, in the next 2 and half minutes his life and that of his suspect will change forever. According to the young man as he was walking back to his truck, the guy his was trying to maintain a visual with approached him from the left and behind. He demanded to know why he was being followed; as the young gave an answer the other one punched him on the face, causing a close fracture on his nose. The young man staggered about and fell to the ground, the other jumped and straddled him, slamming his head on the concrete sidewalk repeatedly, the young man screamed for help, he would later say that he was hoping the police who were already on the way would hear his screams. The other one try to smother him to keep him from screaming, at one point one witness heard the commotion, he observed the young man on the bottom struggling and he heard screams from help, the witness yelled stop I am calling the police, and went back inside his house, his protective shelter in this safari. Seconds later the young man felt the other one trying to attain the gun he was carrying; the same gun that the police had suggested he carried to protect him from some pit bulls in the community, he managed to grab his gun and he fired one shot. He scrambled from under the other guy, and unsure if he had shot him he put his arms to the side, about a minute later the police showed up. The young man was arrested, the EMT testified that 45% of the young man’s face was covered in blood; he had 2 black eyes, abrasions to both sides of his face, lumps on his head as well as 2 cuts. Dazed, hurt and confused the young man provided a statement to the police was interrogated for hours, stripped of his clothes, his gun. He would go on to submit to 2 lie detector test and 3 other interviews with the investigators, he even provided a taped walk-through of the events. He did all of this without a lawyer present, when charges were filed against him he voluntarily surrendered. Before he could do that he and his family had to go on hiding, why because the local prosecutor would not file charges against him, available evidence pointed to his claim of self-defense.
Before the suspect was even buried his family had hired a lawyer, who in turn hired a PR firm, and a narrative was created, the suspect was visiting his father home, at half-time of the NBA all-star game the suspect decided to walk to the store to get himself and his little brother a snack from the local convenience store. This was not possible as the shooting occurred before tip-off so when the details did not match the facts they were changed the narrative, the only thing that was constant was the portrayal of the young man as a violent, racist, cop wannabe vigilante. The media like the narrative and ran with it, in some instances it tried to change facts to help the narrative along. The organization that the young man once sought help from, was now calling for his head on a platter, this time there was no doubt about their involvement.
Why you might ask is this young man facing any charges? The prosecution says that he “profiled” the suspect. The meaning of profiled is not given, it is left to us to understand and define what the State means. That he got out of his truck to follow the suspect. He left the ride, he went into the urban jungle, and the habitants attacked him for it. His exiting his vehicles is seen as a provocation, which precipitated the attack. If not for this young man not following the rules of the Urban Jungle, and stayed in his truck, none of this would have happened; habitants in the Urban Jungle are dangerous.
Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz had been a staunch supporter of the young man, and has called the prosecution illegal and unethical, no charges should have been filed. Yet, even Mr. Dershowitz feels that while not legally culpable; the young man might be morally culpable for leaving his truck. What does that say about our society in general, where trying to do the right thing is morally wrong?
The young man I was referring to is of course George Zimmerman, the suspect was Trayvon Martin and the organization is the NAACP. Zimmerman is charged with 2nd Degree Murder and his trail starts on the 10th of June, let’s try to help a young man who accepted responsibility, decided not to be a bystander or defuse his responsibility to his community in the Urban Jungle we live on.