This blog is about hope. It is about believing that a better, fairer, more peaceful and sustainable world is possible.
This blog is about power; the power that we ordinary, every-day people have when we come together collectively to build our society.
This blog is about responsibility. The responsibility we all owe ourselves, our friends, our family and those we love, especially our children, to do whatever we can, wherever we are, to play our part, to do our bit.
This blog is for people who care about others. For people who give a shit about things that don’t necessarily effect them directly. It is for people who know that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It is for people who want to do something because they know the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Do you scan your news feed or see the headlines and wonder: Why is inequality, injustice, suffering and corruption still prevalent in our society? Do you feel sad, angry, scared, powerless? I often feel that way, too.
‘The Bystander Effect’ is defined as follows:
The bystander effect, or bystander apathy, is a social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. Several factors contribute to the bystander effect, including ambiguity, cohesiveness and diffusion of responsibility. Research has shown that the term “bystander apathy” is an incorrect description because people feel genuine concern for the victim.
The term ‘bystander apathy’ is misleading; it is not that people don’t care. Most people do care. Some people are overwhelmed, and feel hopeless or powerless and impotent. Some people don’t know where to start, not least because everything is so complicated and inaccessible (was it always that way? Is it by design?). Some people assume ‘someone will sort it’…never stopping to consider that they are ‘someone’. Some people (most of us?) are struggling just to survive, and have no room in our heads to try to effect change. Some people believe it’s not possible, and maybe that’s because there are others who have much invested in convincing us that the only way is the way things are.
Most of the time, I believe that change for the better is possible, and that there are enough compassionate people in this world to make it happen. It is not enough just to care…we have to act.
A few months ago, I started to try to put that philosophy into practice. Although I consider myself a compassionate and conscientious person, until recently, I had never tried to change anything in any formal way before. Apart from a passing interest, I had only ever been remotely involved in politics. I had never got involved in local affairs. There are lots of reasons for this, not least because even if I had wanted to, I wouldn’t have had the time (I still don’t – I snatch it now), but also I am rather reluctant, for a lorry-load of reasons that I won’t bore you with here. Despite this, I decided to at least try to do something. I decided to try to overcome my misgivings, my doubts, my insecurities, and at least try to contribute to some sort of solution, instead of just feeling sad or pissed off or just fucking incredulous at all the suffering I see around me.
At some point during this process, I decided it might be worth blogging my experience. There might be others that feel like me, and don’t now where to start. I’ve been so busy since then doing the stuff I want to blog about, that I haven’t had time to blog about it! I hope to catch up.
I thought it might be worth blogging because (to me at least), it’s seemed quite a daunting and difficult journey, one I’ve only just begun. It’s definitely been worth it so far. It is challenging and the learning curve is very steep. If you care, if you long for change, if you are sick of feeling powerless are wondering what you can do where you are, but don’t know where to begin, I hope this will be of some use to you. I hope others can share their experiences too, which will be helpful for me.
I don’t have all the answers…in fact, I have none. But I can no longer sit back and do nothing. I cannot stand it. Doing something, anything, must be better than just watching it all happen.
This is my account of my journey into active citizenship.
I reject the bystander effect, and I hope you will, too.