A social Trust Fall

I have been reading the frustrated rants of many people about how the crowd stood standing as Keenan and Reuben were stabbed and how no one came forward to help. With the size of the crowd gathered, one would think it wouldn’t be such a big difficulty to step up and help. But it didn’t happen.

The other side of it is that many people admitted that if they were a part of the crowd, they might not have stepped up either. They did not think they had the courage it would take. An expectation, but an uncertainty about self on same expectation. How could it then be reasonably expected. Even if expected, would people actually do it? How could they overcome the fear? Torment.

Needs a shift in perspective. I have one possibility to offer.

Before Nisarga was born, when I used to do experiential training programmes in the outdoors, we used to do an activity that went something like this. You stand on an elevated platform, at the edge, with your back to the drop. Members of your team stand facing each other and extend hands to form a kind of bed. You lean back off balance and fall into that bed of arms waiting to catch you.

It was a common fear – would the group hold the person falling safely? The heavier the person, the scarier it seemed. Yet, done as directed, it goes off without a hitch every time. Here is why: Consider a heavyish guy – say 90kg. When 10-12 people share the load of the falling man, each person ends up actually responsible for less than 10kg. For a general guide – your average toddler weighs more than that and you are able to throw into the air and catch without fear of not being able to bear the weight. In fact, you could do it easy! Even twice that weight!

Yet, when we do this with a group the first time, it is difficult to get volunteers to catch the falling person. No one thinks they can do it. Once it becomes clear that the activity “must” happen, the biggest men in the group get “volunteered” to catch, while the lightest person is selected to fall. Naturally, the astonishment at success is amazing. No one expects it to be that easy!

Of course, it is still a big responsibility, and there is no room for carelessness or distraction, but it is nowhere near as difficult as it seems.

This response reminds me of the crowd. Everyone thinking it is too tough and they will not be able to do it. Thus, since there is no “must” help rule, no one helped. Yet, if you see the capacity of the crowd, it is doable. Like a load of 90kg, when divided among 12 people is a ridiculous 8kg or less (ok, maybe slightly more at the hips, if the person doesn’t trust and fall perfectly straight, but still waaaay easier than imagined)…

If you consider a crowd of over fifty people watching, even all of them yelling to stop NOW would be intimidating. And fifty people is hardly any. A street will gather a crowd of hundred or more easy. Half of them throwing a shoe would qualify as an attack. And we haven’t even gotten into getting hurt distance yet.

The trick is in looking at this as a group thing. If you see it as one person taking on armed thugs, it won’t work. The idea is for us to help many people realize that four people can hold down a strong man easy. Ten people yelling loudly can get your average eve teaser to do a serious rethink.

This kind of logic needs to be spread. Where the power of a crowd means that you are not going to need phenomenal amounts of strength. Enough people only are going to need to do it.

If public message films can be made with such examples, so people can see how it can play out, it will become far more easier for people to step up and confront a criminal on the street. Maybe a catch phrase can be figured out and made common usage, so people have something familiar to do, instead of hesitating to yell publicly.

What do you think?

Like a social trust fall.

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About the Author

Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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