Archive | April, 2012

Do Something FFS

18 Apr
‘I would just delete it.’

‘If it was my friend, ja, I’d tell them.’


A few weeks ago I was part of a process where teenagers were being asked to improvise scenes. The given scenario was that an incident of horrible bullying had been filmed on a cellphone and was being sent around. The response, overwhelmingly, was that the teenagers wouldn’t do anything about it. They would delete it from their phones, they said. No one admitted they might forward it. A few were bolder, stating that it was not their problem, and that getting involved would only cause more problems for them.

Fast forward to this morning and the horror of the rape video. The disgusting calls for a link to it so people could watch it. The litany of excuses for rape. And then the international attention and the onslaught of despicable, racist, phobic comments about South Africans.

I told those teenagers about the bystander effect in that workshop. The theory is that the more people there are, the less the likelihood is that anything will be done. So say you’re home alone and you’re hungry. Chances are high that you’ll eat something – whatever is in the kitchen, or pop out for a snack. But maybe the family is all hungry – getting four people to agree on what to eat might take a bit longer. Inevitably he who whines loudest wins out. Now put eight friends in a room trying to decide what to eat. Your best chance of being fed is to LEAVE IMMEDIATELY and find your nearest cafe.

The same principle applies in times of crisis. How many of us have driven past a fire and thought ‘I’m sure someone else has reported that by now’? Walked past a crying child. Done nothing. This is the bystander effect, and it’s insidious. It tells us that there are “other people” doing what needs to be done. Making the decisions. Making dinner.

A few of the teenagers got to talking about what they perhaps could do if they were sent a video showing some incident of bullying. One angry young woman was full of ideas. The first of which was reply to whoever sent you the video and tell them that they are “a stupid asshole”. The second involved telling authorities. The third involved telling everyone “as loudly as possible” that the bullying, the videoing, and the distribution were all “cruel and dumb”.

Be grateful we have people like her in this world. I am.

We can’t afford to do nothing any longer. We, as a society, have given the okay to bullying, to rape, to abuse of power in all its forms, because we would rather not say no to it. We are sure “someone will do something”. We think we are powerless to effect change. I’ve seen lots of suggestions online today about what should be done. They can be summed up as: castrate the rapists, kill the rapists; women should not be provocative or sexy or beautiful; and a few beautiful voices speaking out  – support Rape Crisis, tackle rape as men and women together, report abuse and seek justice, keep talking about it. For this alone today I am grateful – that we have continued to talk about it.

There was another tweet that got my attention today. It was a call from @squidsquirt for a little kindness. And at the very least, that’s what I would love to see. A little more proactive kindness in the world. And that is something all of us can do.

What have you done?