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Monday, June 3, 2013

What Would You Do?

There are all types of heroes, and not just the kind that live in comic books.  There are the brave men and women of our military and police, firefighters and EMT's, the list goes on and on.  However, not all heroes wear a uniform, they're everyday people who may not even be aware of what they're capable of or how willing they are to come to someone's aid until the situation calls for it.

Social experiments can be entertaining, such as TV shows like MTV's "Boiling Point" which tested just how long people could "keep their cool" when placed in the type of everyday situations that stretch the limits of patience.  What they reveal is both unpredictable and eye-opening, especially on a series of videos on YouTube called "What Would You Do?" in which actors create situations to evaluate whether bystanders would get involved, and why.  Different situations brought surprising results and the majority of people are quickly bothered but are either too shy to step in or feel it's not their place.  Once they discover they were part of an experiment, several of those who remained idle regret their inaction.  There were many examples, like actors portraying teenage girls bullying a classmate, an abusive boyfriend with his visually battered girlfriend (make-up effects), and a parent who's visually too drunk to drive, in a bar with their child. 

In the link above, a bagging clerk with Down's Syndrome is heckled by supermarket customers.  The bagger was an actor as well as the store manager and a number of others playing the part of a heckler.  The hecklers shouted at the bagger, name-calling, complaining to the people behind them in line and to the checker about why stores would hire people like him, even calling him "retarded" to his face.  A number of people came to the bagger's defense, while others either kept quiet or even passively agreed with the heckler out of intimidation.  Among those in line behind the heckler were some people who know this situation all too well, who either have people in their family that suffer the same type of abuse, or teachers of special needs children.  Neither was quiet, one going as far to say that she would endure physical abuse if it meant stopping the heckler.

I felt that the most significant value of this project came from the responses of those who did or did not get involved after it was revealed that they were part of the show.  Those who did get involved mostly feel that injustice is simply intolerable and they are willing to stand up for what they believe is right, regardless of the consequences.  Those who remained quiet said that they knew what they were seeing was wrong but felt it's not their place to get involved and that there could be more to the situation than what's being played out.  Watching these videos from the safety of your home will probably prompt a feeling that without any hesitation you would engage a number of these situations, but you may also realize that you have been in a similar situation before and kept quiet like those you've criticized in the videos. 

The message is clear: stand up for what you believe and get involved when you see an injustice, especially if you'd want others to do the same for you.  I hope I'm able to do the right thing if I find myself in a situation where help is needed, especially now that I've judged others for doing nothing.

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