Saturday, May 8, 2010

What would you do?

Last night I watched a very interesting show on ABC called "What Would You Do?" In this show, they create situations using actors and see how people respond. I was so fascinated by the show that I took notes. I am such a nerd.

The first situation was with a drunk girl in a bar. She kept asking for more shots, and then a guy came up and started flirting and touching her, and eventually tried to get her to leave with him. For the most part, people stopped them from leaving, thank goodness, though not always. There was one couple where the guy wanted to do something, and his wife was like, "Don't get involved." They changed it up a bit and had the girl appear as more of a "party girl," dressed more provactively and being louder. People still tried to stop the guy from leaving with her, but the appalling thing was that some guys actually gave him tips on how to get her out. There was one guy who told the guy he would tell her friends she left when they got there. The worst was a couple of married guys who kept saying they wished they were single and then gave the guy ideas of how to lure her out of the bar and where to take her. The very worst part? One of them was an off-duty cop. His excuse was that it could get complicated if he had gotten involved as an off-duty cop. Disgusting.

For the second segment, they had a bike chained to a sign and a white kid very obviously trying to steal it. He was sawing away at the chain. Only a few people even stopped to ask him if it was his bike, and even after he told them it wasn't, most of those moved on. A couple threatened to call the police, but of over a hundred people who passed, only 1 or 2 actually tried to stop him. Next, they switched out the white kid for a black kid, same age, dressed the same. And almost everyone stopped! There was a crowd that formed, and people called the cops and took pictures with their phones. Crazy, but sadly not that surprising. What shocked me the most was the last switch they did. They changed it from a black boy to a hot white girl. Not one person tried to call the cops on her, even when she confessed to stealing the bike. In fact...several men stopped and tried to help her! No joke! One woman stopped and was looking like she was going to do something, and he husband rode right on past and offered to help the girl steal it. Ridiculous. An expert was interviewed and he explained it by saying that as a society, we see beauty as meaning health and goodness. He said that the thought process is, "Beautiful is good, so how can a good person be bad?" I have actually done research on this topic. I think I maybe mentioned it in a previous entry. From the time we are young, we are treated according to our looks by most people, and we learn to act in accordance with other people's views. It makes me really really sad.

The third segment involved lottery fraud. A woman brought a ticket into a shop to get it checked, then stepped away from the counter to grab something. The ticket came up as winner, and the clerk pocketed the ticket and the money. When the winnings were just $20, no one who witnessed it said anything, and some people even lied to the woman when she came back, agreeing with the clerk that it was not a winning ticket. They upped the stakes so that the prize was $290, and still not many people would get involved. A couple did, which was good. Then they had the clerk offer to split the winnings if the customer would stay quiet. Several people agreed! One guy made me cry though. He stood up for that woman and got really heated about it. When interviewed it turned out he was out of work and having trouble collecting unemployment. He could have easily agreed to split the winnings, and goodness knows he could have used it. His words, "It's so easy to hate, and so hard to love." He said we should all try to love each other more, especially these days, in these times. Really did bring tears to my eyes.

The final situation was a store manager harrassing a group of three black teenagers. She made statements like, "People like you," and said that even if they hadn't stolen anything yet it was only a matter of time. They were kicked out of the store after being frisked by the security guard. Some people did step in, and got pretty heated about it. However, out of 100 people who witnessed this atrocity, only 16 stepped in. The girls, who were actresses, were affected by it, even though they were in on the whole thing. Sad that racism is alive and well in the 21st century. Guess we haven't come as far as some people would like to think.

So reflecting on the show last night, I had to wonder, how would I react to any of these situations? While I'd like to think I would step in, I really don't know. There is so much paranoia about getting involved these days. If I approach a bike thief, am I going to get hurt? I hate confrontation. Would I be able to stand up for people being abused or would I stand by and whisper to my friends about how appalling it is without saying a word? There have been times in stores when I've seen parents screaming at their children. I think it's appalling, yet I walk away. Because it's not my place to get involved, right? This is going to take a bit more self-reflection...

I always have to think about how we as a society have all become less helpful and more selfish and self-focused. We rarely smile at each other, usually choosing to focus on the floor as we sweep by, intent on finishing our own business. Cashiers, waiters...they are not people, just vehicles by which our needs are met. And our business is always more important. Even though someone else may have come in first, I'm going to hop to the available cashier without offering the open spot to the person who has been waiting longer. Traffic is terrible, people weaving in and out, tailgating because their lives are so much more important. The other day I had to handle an emergency, and was running very late to a session. There was construction downtown, and people were flying by in the lane that closed up ahead and cutting in, causing those of us waiting in line to have to sit through several cycles at lights. There is an overabundance of discourtesy and just plain rudeness. It's disheartening a lot of days.

There are people who give me hope. There are people who will step in and stand up for what's right. There are people who will give a smile no matter what. Those cashiers who have been on their feets all day and still have a smile. My dad is someone like this. Not a cashier, but someone who has never met a stranger, who puts people at ease no matter what, who can easily converse with people from all different walks of life. I wish to be more like these people, to get over my own stuff, my own shyness and inward focus, and become more outward focused. To smile at strangers. To step in where someone is being treated unfairly. And I challenge anyone who reads this to do the same.

(Sidenote: Ever since watching that show, I have had the song from the Nickelodeon show "What Would You Do?" in my head. What what what would you, what what what would you do?)

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