Thursday, July 17, 2008

No Thanks

Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital,
Vincent Van Gogh

You're maudlin and full of self-pity.

You're magnificent!

--All About Eve (1950)

It is never too late to be
what you might have been

--George Eliot

Ah don't mean to bother wid tellin' 'em
nothin', Pheoby. 'Tain't worth de trouble

--Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston


The recent death of a woman in a New York hospital waiting room following her collapse and lingering death after writhing on the floor in full view off staff, security and other patients is a heartbreaking reminder that we have become inured to suffering, and don't get too flustered unless someone else does something to shake us out of our stupor (The Impassive Bystander.)

In horror and disgust, we are challenged to ask if we are any better than the people who disinterestedly watched this woman die, in the very institution where she sought refuge. We are reminded of the 1964 case of Kitty Genovese in NYC, a 28 year old woman who was repeatedly stabbed and raped over a half hour period in front of witnesses who took no action to save her life.

Or the case last month of 78 year old
Angel Arce Torres in Connecticut, who was thrown by a car as though a character in the video game Death Race 2000. Same-same: people walk and drive by, some gawking but none stopping to help. He is still in critical condition.

"This is a clear indication of what we have become when you see a man laying in the street, hit by a car, and people drive around him and walk by him," [said Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts.] "At the end of the day, we have to look at ourselves and understand that our moral values have now changed. We have no regard for each other."

That impassive behavior is dubbed the "bystander effect." Monkey see, monkey do. Once one is up arms, then it is safe for the followers to hoot and holler. We'd like to think we are better than all that. That we are freethinkers who will follow the commands of conscience, even if it bucks the trend.

Today I had an experience on an ostensibly liberal blog which tells me otherwise. It was not a hit-and-run, but it was group think and a great example of the bystander effect. In short, I courteously but directly made an observation, one contrary to that held by the previous 30 commenters, but on-topic and with disrespect to none.

The response was a swift ad hominem attack: How dare I think otherwise? Why, I was uppity, and clearly arrogant and stupid, too. Hadn't I read all that had gone before? Was I blind -- this was not a liberal group of thinkers, these were rubber stampers, bureaucrats, a mutual admiration society, and I was stepping out of line. This was not democracy's finest moment, nor a shining moment for liberal thinking in general.

Some other denizens wanted to help out, but were afraid to buck the trend, so their attempt to allow dissent was dilute. In short, they were afraid to rock the boat. 30+ voices had already spoken.

The attacker was guarding the gates, lest a new idea infect the adherents. I'm sure she thought praise would devolve to her from her cohorts. I would have suggested the bulldog might do better changing parties and pulling up a seat to FOX news, but I skidaddled out of that sticky wicket right quick.

The ugly fact is, most people are intolerant of dissent, and combative when they take personal offense, so closely have they allied themselves with their ideology. Little separates the rabid liberal form of fascism from that of their fundamentalist brethren. So that is the ugly underbelly to groupthink.

Yours may be a perfectly nice group, but once you get on the easy treadmill of ideology, The Other is something you do not care to see. In fact, something you may attack or, if feeling benign, simply ignore. Ms. Green was schizophrenic, and one can imagine not an easy presence as she sat there in the waiting room for the better part of a day.

So it is that "Esmin Elizabeth Green, 49, an immigrant from Jamaica who moved to New York to make money to send to her children back home, is dead."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've also found that "liberals" can be as prone to groupthink dogmatism as "conservatives" and the only reason they bother me less is that they aren't in charge.

Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 11:01:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


:). I guess everyone thinks they're right, and quite savvy. Pity. I find dogmatism and aggression of any stripe pretty distasteful.

Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 11:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I courteously but directly made an observation, one contrary to that held by the previous 30 commenters, but on-topic and with disrespect to none."

Keep bursting their bubbles, Lisa. I wish I had your attitude. Unfortunately, I am too much of a curmudgeon to be courteous and respectful when confronted with wingnuts regardless of whether they spin clockwise or counterclockwise.

Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 12:06:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for your encouragement.

Oh, and I do not take kindly to crude and clumsy insult, whether by brownshirts or greenshirts, and will not deign to enter their fray.

Hysterics wielding blunt weapons lose my respect fairly quickly.

Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 12:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger HopeSpringsATurtle said...

I'm sorry for the ad hominem attack against you Ranger. While reading your account, I thought about how polarized we've become as a society (by design) and the "bystander effect" seems to be part and parcel of an entire culture that has become lost over the last 30 years or so.

Since my odyssey into the blogosphere began a little over 2 years ago, my worldview has changed dramatically. My values have remained the same, but I can barely perceive whether America has changed so much over the last generation, or my awareness has dramatically changed. I suppose it is a bit of both.

If I were on the scene when Mr. Torres was hit, or when Ms. Green was in such distress, I can assure you that I would have interceded. I have done such duty before and would not hesitate to do it again.

My only consolation is that I will continue to do what I think is right and hope to attract like-minded others as I continue my life.

Thanks for the post.

Friday, July 18, 2008 at 9:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Turtle,

Thanks for your understanding (The attack was vs. me though, and not Jim.)

The blog world is an amzing conduit, but ultimately we are just connecting in a new way with the same people that stand next to us in Walmart. Not all or knid, not all enlightened. Some just seek a community to validate what they already know, or to grump about something, or seek pity, or whatever.

My hope is for dialog, and growth, and I suspect yours is, too. Like you, I have and will come to the aid of the needy. That is perhpas the best we can do in this life--to serve as an example and do actual good.

Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 9:49:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

oops--bad speller: "kind".

"Knid" sounds like Swedish Chef- speak.

Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 9:50:00 AM GMT-5  

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