Like most Americans who witnessed the video of the Central Park mob that harassed, and physically assaulted women, I was annoyed and offended. However, despite the reprehensible behavior of the punks who willingly embraced the persona of a mob with all the attendant psychological babble rationalizations, I was more annoyed, offended, and embarrassed that no one attempted to help the victims.
My frustration was recently exacerbated when I brought the topic up on my radio talk show. I asked caller after caller who announced they wouldn't intervene for a long variety of reasons the same questions. "What if you were there and your mother, wife, girlfriend or daughter was assaulted?" Most claimed in such a case they would do "something," maybe. I was amazed -- and disappointed in my fellow man.
I know a little about mobs having once taught riot control long ago and far away. Mobs develop a persona. An element called "contagion" spreads like a rash and normally rational people that individually would never participate in such conduct abandon individual responsibility for actions and embrace the attitude and objectives of the group. I can accept that this is a real, albeit regrettable, psychological phenomenon. Mob participants assume the false perception of "anonymity." The contemporary reality of video tape can abrogate that but the perception remains, "I'm not me ... I'm us."
Callers and e-mailers listed off a litany of reasons people did not intervene, and rationalized why they would not step in:
Robert Humphrey was an Iwo Jima Marine who once wrote something some of us still embrace as "The Warrior's Creed":
The Central Park situation did not require a righteous mob of equal or superior numbers to assault the water-wielding rowdies. It only required one man or woman to be the first to demand they "stop it." Just as the offensive rowdies grew in size and intensity through the passive acceptance of spectators, likewise that first person to do the right thing, would have been joined by others, who would have been joined by others, who in turn would have been joined by others. See, that mob mentality thing that is a function of subordinating individualism and becoming not one, but part of the whole, grows with acceptance of others. The anonymity increases as more and more people join the mob.
The Central Park disaster could have been averted or transformed if someone -- anyone -- refused to accept the grossly inappropriate behavior of the jerks groping women.
Some callers said, "Yeah, but what if you got hurt?" Maybe we have become too comfortable to even understand that in order to do what is right you may and can get hurt. It is one thing to say the words that sound good: "I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees." However, it is an annoying reality check to acknowledge you might break a nail or suffer a bruise. We are quick to vilify legislators who because they don't stand for anything will fall for anything. Look in a mirror!
Any cyberspace keyboard warrior can talk the talk, but what happens when circumstance requires you to walk the walk?
If we are unwilling to do what is right, to come to the aid of those in need when they are unable to defend themselves, how in the world can we logically expect anyone to come to OUR aid when we need assistance?
I used to carry a quote in my wallet as a reminder. It was from something called "In the Arena" and is attributed to Teddy Roosevelt. It reads, "It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."
All those passive participants who stood or sat by and witnessed the Central Park episode, arguably more concerned with their own safety than that of someone else's mother or daughter were in that dank gray place of "cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."
To those who feel they would have done something if their mother, daughter, wife or girlfriend had been harassed and assaulted I have two closing points: The victims were the mothers, daughters, wives and girlfriends of someone; and if YOU were not present if or when one of your loved ones was being victimized who would you expect to come to their aid?
the words of Rev. Neimoeller who in recounting the inaction of Germans
to the abuses of Hitler concluded, "And when they came for me there was
no one left to say anything. ..."