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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.

Comments 16

  • Very good perspective on the whole thing. I agree if we all thing we are empowered enough to tackle it, we wouldn’t face problems like these. 

    It would be a great concept of a PSA i agree…

  • Very good perspective on the whole thing. I agree if we all thing we are empowered enough to tackle it, we wouldn’t face problems like these. 

    It would be a great concept of a PSA i agree…

  • Reading about what happened to Keenan and Reuben left me feeling disturbed for a few days, as I tried to follow up on the later events. In my mind, I tried putting myself in their place as well as one of the bystanders. The social trust fall theory will surely work on paper…not sure it would work in reality given the law and order conditions that exist in India. Forget about the crowd getting physical to stop such a horrendous crime. The same crowd will beat the crap out of a juvenile eve teaser or miscreant…but dealing with a mob of armed criminals is a totally different thing. What if the crowd tries to help and one of the criminal digs up a gun and shoots one down. How many would still be wanting to help? What sad is that most bystanders won’t even help the victims long after the criminals have fled the scene. I guess most people want to help. But are afraid to do so. Because they don’t want to get involved with the cops, who have a general image of being corrupt and puppets in the hands of criminals/politicians. I am currently living in the US. I’ve experienced dealing with the cops (in regards to helping someone in trouble) in India and in US. Back home, me and a friend tried to take a hit and run victim to an army hospital, who was lying at the side of the road bleeding, with a crowd gathered around him. We spent many hours at the hospital and were not allowed to leave without interrogation and other useless procedures even after narrating what had happened. It was still better because it was an army hospital..dealing with local cops would have been worse. In US, when I wanted to help a lady who had collapsed on the subway station, all I had to do was to dial 911, explain the situation and the paramedics arrived within 10 mins. I wasn’t asked anything. You see what I’m getting at? Why is is that the cops are never patrolling around the streets in India? Why are they always late to the scene? We don’t have any sort of infrastructure to handle emergencies. If I was a bystander my first instinct would be to call for help. Too bad it will never arrive.

  • Reading about what happened to Keenan and Reuben left me feeling disturbed for a few days, as I tried to follow up on the later events. In my mind, I tried putting myself in their place as well as one of the bystanders. The social trust fall theory will surely work on paper…not sure it would work in reality given the law and order conditions that exist in India. Forget about the crowd getting physical to stop such a horrendous crime. The same crowd will beat the crap out of a juvenile eve teaser or miscreant…but dealing with a mob of armed criminals is a totally different thing. What if the crowd tries to help and one of the criminal digs up a gun and shoots one down. How many would still be wanting to help? What sad is that most bystanders won’t even help the victims long after the criminals have fled the scene. I guess most people want to help. But are afraid to do so. Because they don’t want to get involved with the cops, who have a general image of being corrupt and puppets in the hands of criminals/politicians. I am currently living in the US. I’ve experienced dealing with the cops (in regards to helping someone in trouble) in India and in US. Back home, me and a friend tried to take a hit and run victim to an army hospital, who was lying at the side of the road bleeding, with a crowd gathered around him. We spent many hours at the hospital and were not allowed to leave without interrogation and other useless procedures even after narrating what had happened. It was still better because it was an army hospital..dealing with local cops would have been worse. In US, when I wanted to help a lady who had collapsed on the subway station, all I had to do was to dial 911, explain the situation and the paramedics arrived within 10 mins. I wasn’t asked anything. You see what I’m getting at? Why is is that the cops are never patrolling around the streets in India? Why are they always late to the scene? We don’t have any sort of infrastructure to handle emergencies. If I was a bystander my first instinct would be to call for help. Too bad it will never arrive.

  • Bang on Vidyut. And this logic needs to spread. The power of the crowd is huge. It just needs to be realized.

    That was indeed motivating and insightful . And agree with Anil that self help from us around is imp before the summoned authorities arrive.

  • Bang on Vidyut. And this logic needs to spread. The power of the crowd is huge. It just needs to be realized.

    That was indeed motivating and insightful . And agree with Anil that self help from us around is imp before the summoned authorities arrive.

  • Why does Bollywood glamorize eve teasing ? Why no one writes about it ? 

  • Why does Bollywood glamorize eve teasing ? Why no one writes about it ? 

  • Thanks Vidyut for this article and the analysis.  I would like in any similar scenario to be more than a useless bystander  – I will certainly give it a shot ! 🙂

  • Thanks Vidyut for this article and the analysis.  I would like in any similar scenario to be more than a useless bystander  – I will certainly give it a shot ! 🙂

  • Vidyut, I am willing to volunteer time in the making of short PSA videos. I have production capabilities but would need local talent for writing and acting to volunteer. Anyone out here may raise their hand to join.

  • Vidyut, I am willing to volunteer time in the making of short PSA videos. I have production capabilities but would need local talent for writing and acting to volunteer. Anyone out here may raise their hand to join.

  • A sincere thanks for this blog … Finally got to read something motivating, something to learn from the gruesome incident and something which is devoid of negativity. It certainly did shed the inhibition which i discussed in ur earlier blog of requirement of administrative support for action against group of armed goons or assisting victim. While that inhibitions still holds true, but ur blog certaainly paves the way of possibly avoiding the incident

    The old saying United we stand, Divided we fall – holds true with Divided be replaced by individual.

  • A sincere thanks for this blog … Finally got to read something motivating, something to learn from the gruesome incident and something which is devoid of negativity. It certainly did shed the inhibition which i discussed in ur earlier blog of requirement of administrative support for action against group of armed goons or assisting victim. While that inhibitions still holds true, but ur blog certaainly paves the way of possibly avoiding the incident

    The old saying United we stand, Divided we fall – holds true with Divided be replaced by individual.

  • Hi Vidyut,

    Allow me to simplify this. Stop thinking it cant happen to me. What happened with Keenan and Reuben can happen with anyone one us, with or without resisting the attempts of a would be assailant.

    No dont be a hero no one is asking that of anyone. For god’s sake dont be a coward either for that hurts no end. Stop standing there like mute spectator, you owe it to yourself at the very minimum to yell out in fear if not pain.

    We have to start behaving as living creatures & not some sort of zombie who react only after the crime has been committed & criminal has fled from the scene.

    First point of assistance is self help next is public authorities come last, since they have to be summoned.

    Sincerely
    Anil

  • Hi Vidyut,

    Allow me to simplify this. Stop thinking it cant happen to me. What happened with Keenan and Reuben can happen with anyone one us, with or without resisting the attempts of a would be assailant.

    No dont be a hero no one is asking that of anyone. For god’s sake dont be a coward either for that hurts no end. Stop standing there like mute spectator, you owe it to yourself at the very minimum to yell out in fear if not pain.

    We have to start behaving as living creatures & not some sort of zombie who react only after the crime has been committed & criminal has fled from the scene.

    First point of assistance is self help next is public authorities come last, since they have to be summoned.

    Sincerely
    Anil

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