Saturday, October 06, 2007

Who is going to stand up for you?

Last year, 54-year old Guido Demoor was working his job as a conductor on a train in Antwerp, Belgium. Six youths got on the train and began intimidating the riders on the train. Demoor asked the young men to knock it off. They promptly began to beat Demoor.

None of the other 40 passengers did anything to intervene. In fact, at the next stop 30 of them actually got off the train, leaving Demoor to be beaten to death by the six youths.

Forty people sat there and did nothing as a decent person was kicked and punched to death. I'm sure the passengers were scared, terrified in fact, of the event unfolding before their eyes. Nonetheless, to be so impotent as to offer nothing to help a fellow citizen?

A clue into the local mindset comes from a fellow rail worker quoted in the paper, De Morgen, "You see what happens if you intervene? If Guido had not opened his mouth he would still be alive."

I see two lessons from these kinds of stories:

1. You can not count on help from anyone during your particular physical confrontation. You have to manage it yourself and continue as if you will not receive any help. The police will not be there (bad guys have an annoying habit of perpetrating their crime when the cops are not around) and people walking around you may not have the skill or the will to help you. You have to startle onlookers out of their paralysis by loudly and clearly giving orders -- "YOU, call the police!" "YOU TWO, pull these guys off me!" Start to call for help on your mobile, on your radio, or even just out loud. You need to divide the attention of your attackers, enlist help and put the thought that help could be coming into the attackers' minds.

2. Make the conviction now, that you will stand up to the forces of evil and come to the aid of your neighbors. Now. You can't wait until the crisis occurs because you will be overwhelmed by the situation. Make the commitment. I will stand up for my neighbors. There is strength in numbers. If we saw any positive come out of Sept. 11, 2001, it was the manifistation of good standing up to evil on Flight 93. The actions of those passengers -- a completely disparate bunch of strangers congealed into a single group by need -- probably saved either the U.S. Capitol or the White House and offered us a glimpse of the heroic heights ordinary people could attain. If you do not stand up for your neighbors, who will stand up for you?



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