Are You a Bystander?
Gabriel Abraham Garrett
21

The bystander effect is well-known, but it doesn’t necessary say bad things about humans. If you live in a city, it is generally polite to ignore other people unless they ask you for help! Emergencies of course break that convention but many people don’t know to perform the context switch.

And there is a geographical component. Chinese people will never get involved, because their laws encourage this (if you help someone, you can get sued for their injury even if you had nothing to do with it).

On the other hand, last week my wife and I were walking through Brooklyn in the evening and as we walked I realized that I’d seen a young woman curled up on the ground. I’d gotten a bit past her, so I turned to walk back and I realized there was a small crowd of people there, mostly standing at a short distance. I asked one of them what was happening and she said, “We think she just had too much to drink. She seems to be breathing fine but we called the cops. They’ll be there soon. Do you know who she is?”

It made me very happy. These strangers had stopped to help a stranger. They weren’t even dead serious about it — they had done all the right things, were monitoring her and waiting for the cops, but were also hanging out and chatting. Very New York City.

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