Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
plural noun: bystanders
a person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part.
What is the Bystander Effect?
The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation. Social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley popularized the concept following the infamous 1964 Kitty Genovese murder in New York City. Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment while bystanders who observed the crime did not step in to assist or call the police. Latané and Darley attributed the bystander effect to the perceived diffusion of responsibility (onlookers are more likely to intervene if there are few or no other witnesses) and social influence (individuals in a group monitor the behavior of those around them to determine how to act). In Genovese’s case, each onlooker concluded from their neighbors’ inaction that their own personal help was not needed.
Hardly an uncommon sight when even the presence of so many people does not deter criminals from executing their actions based on the fluent knowledge of the above theory. Of course, we sometimes label it as fear or cowardice or even gently writing it off as helplessness, bu this stark reality has not only grown in magnitude but has in fact assumed several other proportions that its presence is now visible even on other communication planes.
Crisis Relief, a Non Governmental Organisation campaigning against such ineptitude, is using phrases like “Liking Isn’t Helping. Be A Volunteer. Change A Life” while showing the visual a small baby in a baby bed with a leg cut off (perhaps as a result of war), and is surrounded by so many people gesturing the infamous thumbs up sign, showing empty support.
This, perhaps, reminds you of the many posts you have read on social media or whatsapp channels where someone’s misery draws so much attention and sympathy but no action is even considered. This inactivity and in fact progressed indifference pervades the social media space in capacious proportions.
But afar from these new-found virtual lives that we all have now, where reckless talk and rumour feeds the anxiety of many a lost souls, the rebound can also be seen amongst families that pretend play grief sharing with each other. Our community today is arguable on the skids of the economic ladder, and much of it is perhaps defined by the rising cases of business collapse, family splits, marital divorces, educational dropouts and so on, yet there is a profound manner of lassitude amongst wise and wealthy people in a family setup to come to the rescue of this ruin. Dressed in abstract concern are usually words such as have faith, have patience, Allah will help, and so on – none of them false anyway. In fact, by all acceptable beau ideal, these are just the right concoctions for relief from misery or distress. However, such scenarios do in fact surmise more than just words and more words.
Such has been the witless absurdity in society that victims are being over educated about their straits, but rarely anyone is within distance pf being invoked in reality. It is as though that by discharging the responsibility of comforting those in trouble breezes to a terminus, and that beyond a mouthful, there is little we can or want to do. Everywhere you turn, there is prophetic advice available, some so audacious that all it does is enhance the tumult rather than diminish it.
To ask others to pray for us and to tell others we will pray for them cannot perchance be all that our roles are in our abridged lives. For sure, there is more we can do to help others and to relieve them of their pain and pang. To purge this responsibility and then to affirm love for Ameerul Mu’mineen (AS), is reasonably, a contradiction. For the teachings of this great personality were to look unto the troubles of others and to help resolve them, to spread fairness for all and to insist on justice.
We were endowed this life to perform such deeds as would befit a true Muslim, but it now appears that the reminders we have received about the importance of du’a have unfortunately precipitated to a rather self serving dimension whereby not only are we asking others to keep praying for their well being, to some of us, our Aimma (AS) have been reduced to an untroublesome medium for acceptance of our haajat, rather than the complete and perfect symbols of the kind of lives we ought to be living. This mixed up definition of Imaamat, erodes our belief systems in as much as it affects our roles in this life pursuing the fulfillment of the purpose of our creation.