I almost exploded of anger. After having stood in the queue along with I guess hundreds of people for almost an hour (for a roller-coaster ride, I am embarrassed to admit), it pissed me off so much to see yet another guy trying to be smart and jump the queue in front of us. So I started to yell at him, and everybody sort of backed away in awe, my kids were a bit embarrassed…, at least my blogging mate Razz would have been proud of me, I guess. Yet it seemed truly strange that I was alone fighting for us all.
A similar thing happened back in Rome, in a hundreds of metres long queue of people wanting to see the Sistine Chapel. A group of three just simply walked by and tried to sneak in up at the very beginning of the line. I jumped there and started a very nervous and loud exchange of words – and everybody else just stood and watched. Later on they kept saying: “Yeah, you were right, they were really arrogant…”, but, hey, where were they while the thing was going on? How come dozens of people did not shout at every little attempt of cheating – and soon nobody would even think of trying it.
Yes, if somebody’s trying to jump the queue it really gets me going. I just value fairness and mutual respect and equality so much. And of course I am aware of inter-cultural differences and therefore I will not make such a scene in cultures where linear perception of time and queuing just isn’t a way of perceiving and living. But both of the above instances were happening here, in Europe, where we do think linear and where we do queue!
Anyway, I am still thinking about this passiveness and apathy of us – and I know I have been often passive and apathetic just as well. It all reminds me of the so-called bystander effect, in which the mere presence of other people restrains our own helping behaviour in an emergency, like in individual cases of murders of Shanda Sharer and Kitty Genovese, the inconceivable human episode of The Holocaust or even Kevin Carter and his Pulitzer winning photo, for which he actually said to had been waiting for about 20 minutes for the vulture to spread its wings – which would make a better shot.
Both my cases are, of course, not anywhere near in terms of seriousness, but perhaps the reasons for a rather large (and thus powerful) group of people being passive while observing individuals obviously violating their rights and boundaries, are somewhat similar or even same. The first might be, as in the by-stander effect, the diffusion of responsibility, because individuals don’t feel the individual drive to act since the responsibility is shared among everybody and thus minimised for each individual.
And the second, which is to my mind more present in my cases, is the urge to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways. Or, in other words, the grand fear of being wrong. The fear of making a mistake, the fear that was beaten into us through schooling and which evaluates every move we make. Is it right or is it wrong? Feeling free to do whatever feels to be the right thing to do opens up a huge amount of responsibility and freaks out our ego.
But, can you imagine a world in which we would not feel afraid of being wrong? A world in which we would dare to speak, act and express ourselves, without first having built up the piles of inner pressure and frustrations? A world in which everybody would stand up, speak up and act when seeing an act of violence… Oh what a world it would be…