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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The By Stander Apathy dilemma

Very recently the gang rape of a young woman and her male friend in the Indian capital of New Delhi has caught the attention of people world wide with a very active social media campaign protesting the inhumane act, this has been accompanied by off line protests on the streets of Delhi as well as other major Indian cities. Even though Delhi has the reputation of being India's rape capital, the gruesome nature of the act managed to significantly catch the attention of the media and those active on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Among the most common arguments that are being dished out on social media is the issue off not just law enforcement incompetence but also off in action or lack of attention given by those around to suspicious activities. According to some reports, the vehicle in which the unfortunate girl and her friend were assaulted in showed unusual vehicle movement on the road, including a strange number of u turns at a particular junction. In other words by stander apathy is being repeatedly blamed for the heinous crime that happened in New Delhi. But a very important question that needs o be asked is what is by stander apathy and what are some of the possible reasons that cause this by stander apathy.

To describe by stander apathy in simple terms it can be described as the opposite of empathy, i.e. it is the complete ignorance or an absence of any emotional reaction to events in the surrounding environment. This lack of reaction could be both intentional or unintentional. It can be regarded as unintentional if we have grown up over the years being conditioned to mind one's own business, keep to one's self and focus on our personal self interest. It can be forced, i.e. we may force it upon ourselves just to prevent ourselves from getting into trouble. As human beings we have that right, but if we end up suffering due to people's apathy we end up complaining about this same silent by stander apathy. This is not to stay everyone is apathetic, if everyone was, there would be no one helping us when we have a flat tire or when our car breaks down, or when we are injured and some one calls an ambulance. The world has good people as well, but their numbers are diminishing.

Our by stander apathy as adults goes back to our earlier years, be it our child hood or our teenage years when we are in high school or at the start of our university life. I am certain those reading this blog might not be able to relate to apathy as a teenager, our minds are too fragile and confused during those years that when  we experience apathy towards others, it by passes us by so conveniently. Our teenage years are our developmental years and so much variation in emotion is experienced by us as well as certain types of uncertainties we miss out on some while embracing. To be more specific, I will list down some cases of apathy we display while we in our developmental years between childhood and early adulthood. The best example I can think of is bullying, bullying and social discrimination is a very common phenomena through out schools around the world. Bullying and social discrimination is not something that is restricted to a particular socioeconomic group or a particular segment of society, rather it happens every where because of various reasons ranging from individual need to exercise their power against a weaker person, or the ego needs of some one to feel superior over another by down grading or degrading another person who by no means has brought any harm upon them.

How many of us have seen ourselves or some one else take any action or show any empathy towards the person being bullied as a teenager in some way or the other. Bullying ranges from verbal vomit, to severe social discrimination to even physical assault. The effects of bullying during those vulnerable teenager years stay with the victim for many many years to come, in some cases through out life and it strongly affects how they interact and engage with people as adults or how they respond to their surroundings. Apathy showed to them can make them apathetic towards others possibly under the guise of it all being a socially accepted norm of minding one's own business. Our apathy towards those being bullied, harassed, marginalized or mistreated during those years lays the foundation of our behavior of apathetic and self consumed human beings, it isn't until such scenarios fall upon us that. Just imagine if we had seen others being bullied, harassed and abused in front of our eyes in school and had we not chosen ignorance, how different would our lives today have been and the life of the other person being victimized. As teenagers, it might sound very risky to jump into another's problems, where we take countless personal risks, such a risk is not too much to ask, and as far as we adults are concerned, we need to been actively aware of when and how our children start displaying apathy and insensitivity in the world around us. 

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