Monday, March 31, 2008

Are You a "Bystander"?

While cleaning my mailbox today, I came across this year-old mail from a "friend" - well, we had communicated on mails, talked a couple of times on phone, and had even met once accidentally. This young MBA from IIM/A was working with Ashoka:Innovators for the Public, and we had got in touch because of my interest in Social Entrepreneurship.

His announcement came out-of-the-blue...

"...I am leaving Ashoka to work in the grassroots in Assam. The situation in my home state is terrible, and I do not wish to remain a mute spectator to this devastation. I am not yet sure what I'll exactly do, but I plan to travel extensively to figure out how best I could contribute to making some positive difference."

Reading his mail again, reminded me of the reverse stance many/most of us get quagmired into.

I had once written about this Logic of Inaction, and his mail stimulated me to make this quiz for myself (you may also like to take it):

  • Am I aware that something seems wrong in a situation around me? YES / NO

  • Do I actively deny taking responsibility - however, remote - of my own part in purpetuating/creating the problem or preventing its resolution? YES / NO

  • Do I claim that, given my "circumstances", I could not have acted otherwise? YES / NO

  • Do I discount my own autonomy and power to influence the situation? YES / NO

    Realising that such a candid and conscious admission to an otherwise unconscious stance of negation is difficult - actually impossible - to make to oneself, I also created a checklist of typical statements that one makes (to oneself and to others) to justify one's Bystander Stance.

  • "Oh, this is none of my business."

  • "The situation is actually far more complex than it seems."

  • "Well, I do not have all the information/am not qualified to deal with this/ make a comment."

  • "I don't want to get burned again."

  • "I want to remain neutral/ am neutral on this issue."

  • "I'm only telling the truth as I see it."

  • "I'm just following orders/ doing my duty."

  • "What difference will my individual contribution/effort make to such a large/complex issue?"

  • "Who is to be blamed? They brought it upon themselves."

  • "I don't want to rock the boat."
    etc. etc....

    So...? Are you a Bystander?

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