Friday, December 07, 2012

think about it

There are endless threads about the place taking about the subway killing in NYC – a man was pushed onto the tracks and died when he was unable to get out of the way of an oncoming train. No one helped him. Not a single person on that platform.  (If you want to follow a number inputs at you can go here and sort of work your way back.) The whole thing is fucking gruesome, but after a week or so of reading stories it becomes more clear to me that when judging  how we approach decisions made by others we can only assess what they did in that situation, not any ‘what ifs’. By this I mean that we often hear things like, “Well, if I were there I would have...,” or “You don’t know what you’d have done in that situation.” The former is complete bullshit; the latter is true. At the same time, the former will hang you; the latter will not. Let me explain.
If you’ve actually been presented with a real-world decision, I’ll call it the “I AM there” (IAT) decision point, then we know what you did. Is there any possible way for me to determine what I would have done? Nope. I can preach all day long that I’d jump on the tracks to save another person, or that I’d have yanked Mr. Sandusky off that kid, pummeled him, and called the police. The fact is that there is absolutely no way to know what I’d do in the IAT. It’s impossible. The other side of the coin is the “you don’t know what you’d have done” (YDK) accusation; I call it an accusation because those who are being judged on their actions in the IAT tend to immediately throw the YDK back in your face. As alluded to above, in an YDK situation…you don’t know. Here’s the painful rub: we never really get to the YDK unless a person has been accused of fucking up within the IAT matrix: the someone (or someones) who don’t help another human. You were there, you were at a decision point – the IAT – and we can see exactly how you reacted. There’s nowhere to hide, and posing the YDK to others is asking us to give you our hopes, or disprove some falsehood; it’s like you saying, “Well, you would have done (or not done) the same thing.” And therein is the bullshit.
Those that run toward the trouble, or the assistance of others, are pretty amazing. Those that run away may well be like most of us. We want to believe we are better beings. We hope we are better. We never know. If you want a test try this: the next time you walk by a homeless person begging on the street see if you look them in the eye. I’m not suggesting you give them anything or say anything – do you recognize him/her as a person?

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