Thoughts for My People

The bystander effect

Yesterday was voting date for the Upper House election in my country. No big surprises in the outcome, but I think there were a few key take-aways that deserve more attention and further discussion by my people. I will not go into details of each here, but I must say I am left with a great concern for “less-ness.”


I got the impression that there obviously was bystander effect, a social psychology term that refers to how easy it is to hide behind anonymity, making less people take action in bigger crowds in emergency situations. Although election is not a situation of imminent danger, it still requires the onlookers to act, i.e., to vote… yet only slightly over one in two of us showed up at the polling stations. Only half of us had a self that thought about our future and voiced these thoughts by deciding to vote.


But, this was not due only to the general people – the politicians did not make it any better. They did not provide an environment in which we could each come to have a solid self to vote one way or another.


There was much ambiguity in the positions they took on the issues at hand, and the significance of certain outcomes were not made salient, making it harder for us to take a definitive stance. There was low cohesiveness between the candidates and the potential voters, making it harder for us to relate to them and imagine them as representative of our thoughts and beliefs. And there was definitely a diffusion of responsibility, especially in the younger generations, with the addition of a new group of people given the voting right.


Maybe anonymity is comforting, especially when we are not sure of ourselves.

Maybe high ambiguity, low cohesiveness, and diffusion of responsibility give us excuses to remain anonymous and without solid selves.

But maybe it means we will be forced to stay anonymous, even when we want to matter sometime in the future.


And where will that leave us?

Maybe regret too late the decision made by a mass of selves, less of thought and care for the future?

Or maybe be terrorized by the actions of those who come to have the wrong sense of heroism and selflessness, and take matters into their own hands?


I worry that the self-less-ness I am seeing today will lead to thoughtlessness and carelessness of tomorrow, and eventually leave us with nothing but future-less-ness.

Let us raise caution on the spread of self-less-ness, so we the general people can increase self-awareness to become more thoughtful and careful, and get the politicians to provide more clear and identifiable cues to make it easier for us to accept accountability for our own future.


Let us not be bystanders of our own fate.


A last note: Sad to hear R.E., the lyricist for the only Asian song to reach the top of the Billboard, had passed away. Your words were so clear and identifiable… I hope we will keep on walking looking up, just like your lyrics tell us to.


One thought on “The bystander effect

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