Bystander’s Apathy

What is a person’s responsibility when another’s human rights are being violated?

In most cases when a crime happen the witnesses present may fail to take any action to help the victim. Or in the street, if someone falls over and other people do not give a helping hand you might not help either because other people are not helping.  Studies show that this phenomenon is dictated more by the social context rather than the moral principles of the witnesses. Bystander apathy is a social psychology whereby the mere presence of other people inhibits someone’s helping behaviors in a case of emergency. John Darley and Bibb Latane were inspired to study emergency helping tendencies after the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964. The newspapers reported that thirty eight people had heard and witnessed Genovese been attacked which took almost an hour, yet they just watched and did nothing.

In respect of humanity, everyone ought to have a role to play in helping other people. Whenever someone is in need the other have a duty to play. If one’s freedom is violated it means also that I too am in danger and if I do not take action now next time it could be me. People should be their brother’s keeper and watch their back wherever they go. Edmund Burke quoted that the only necessity for the thriving of evil is for good people not to take action (Baron and Byrne 1994).

“Night” is a book written by Elie Wiesel. “Night” describes one of the most infamous evil against humanity. It is based on a personal real life experience as a young Orthodox Jew, of being sent together with his family to the German concentration camps at Buchenwald and Auschwitz during the holocaust and the Second World War.  As Elie matures, and becomes more aware of religious matters, WWII seems a remote occurrence. growling of danger commence with the news that all alien Jews are to be deported, but by 1944, there are reports that the war would decline soon-it is just a niche of time before Germany’s waterloo. Again there is news that the Jews in Budapest are being isolated together up in slums, but these seemed like remote occurrence (Wiesel 1969).

The reports that German soldiers were already on Hungarian land is agonizing, but Wiesel’s father decides to remain behind. The condition hastily declines and Wiesel’s family – together with all other Jewish colleagues in the village, are ferried away to concentration camps in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. His family and friends natively from Hungary were Jewish and were subjected to starvation, mistreatment and suffering from the then German dictator, Adolf Hitler.  Wiesel was only fifteen years old when Buchenwald was taken over by the United States army in 1945. The Nazi’s death camp’s nightmares changes Wiesel into the agonized witness to his family’s murder. Wiesel talks of his increasing disgust in human beings and loss of faith.

Wiesel demonstrates his own ideas as he discovers that his psyche was torn into survivalist mentality. “Night” awakens the shocking memory of evil at its worst and aims to convey the message that this horror must never be allowed to blossom again. Wiesel describes a sad journey through the darkness, through the false days and dawns, until there are hints that tiny shafts of light can pierce the seemingly unending nights. “Night” arouses a feeling of pity and apathy, that all men must suffer, but also the thought crops up that if people must survive, what is missing? Wiesel undergoes deprivation, loss of family, loss of faith, and eventually loss of any air of humanity. Wiesel undergoes the great embarrassment of considering nothing but survival- even when daily survival brings misery, agony and chilling cold.
Wiesel often explains his religion with frustration and improbability. Although he was brought up in a religious manner, he questions God’s intentions and accusing God for willingly letting innocent blood to be shed. He asks “Where were you, God of mercies, in Auschwitz? What was happening in heaven, while your men were undergoing isolation, death and dehumanization only because they were Jews?”(Wiesel, 1969). Although he still find himself praying to God I his lingering frustration. The Nazi’s dehumanized the Jews by exposing them to inhumane conditions. This shows how the bystander apathy works. Nazis united themselves against the Jews. The Nazis were rejoicing at the suffering of the Jews and thought that they were a better group and were not exposed to any danger. They refused to help the Jews in any way. Some Jews tried to oppose the Nazi’s brutal actions only by spiritual resistance in the ghettos.

Other countries did not take immediate action against Adolf Hitler together with his evil men and sat back and watch as humanity was humiliated. It took time before other countries intervened. The worst had already happened and there was way the situation could be rescinded. Wiesel concludes with a wake call to all those who survived the ordeal. He asks himself that how long the people can go on being angry. More than fifty years have gone by but still the deep wounds are still open. However agonizing the nightmares were, many things good and bad have happened to the Holocaust survivors. They learned to rebuild their ruins, families were re-organized, and new friendship bonds were cemented. They learned to have faith in their environment, even with other human beings. Fulfillment has been filled in their hearts and they are not anymore bitter with life. The tribulation taught them to be thankful to anyone who wants to listen to their ordeal and be allies in the fight against apathy and forgiveness.

Wiesel says that it takes a man of integrity to make a difference, a difference of death and life. So far as one dissenter is imprisoned, our liberty is not guaranteed. One child been hungry, humanity will be filled with suffering and humiliation. People should learn that when in trouble is that they are not alone; they are not neglected, that when their voices are choked we shall give them a helping hand, that while their liberty depends on ours, the equity of our liberty also depends on theirs.

The concept of bystander apathy teaches us the underpinnings of the society for example, the concepts of good or bad, and right or wrong which contrast the experience of Buchenwald and Auschwitz as described by “Night”. As it is seen the life in the camp is demonstrated by staying alive and that the brutality subjected to the captives created a world that looked normal and usual to the prisoners. The refusal to allow your spirit to be demoralized helped to prevent dehumanization. This can demonstrate in acts of resistance, which helped to keep one’s stability, and helping those in need.

It is evident that those people who perpetrate evil acts are ordinary people just like us, who by acts of omission or commission are lured into supporting those acts. When people do nothing in the face of a crime they become unwitting partners in crime to the crime. Human beings should embrace the community. We have been brought up in a world where everyone is looking for number one under all costs. From the leaders to the citizens everyone is driven by ill-selfish motives. Social responsibility, empathy, and a sense of equity are essential to humanity. A Good Samaritan is not on a crusade, he is not walking around to do something heroic. He is just caught in a situation that calls for his character as an individual who cares for his or her neighbor’s predicament

In conclusion, everyone has to take part in nurturing humanity. Peace cannot be attained by one person but a group. As human beings we live together and have to coexist with one another under all situations thus for the change we need in this world we must change our perception towards other people and treat them as you would expect to be done unto us. Unity is always stronger than division and nothing is unattainable with hope. And as long we stay alive humanity is all we got.























Baron R. and Byrne D. Social psychology: understanding human. Edition7.Allyn and Bacon Publishers. 1994.

Albert F. Out of the whirlwind: a reader of holocaust literature. Floyd, USA. Doubleday Publishers. 1968.

Statt A. The concise dictionary of psychology. Edition3. MA, Canada. Routledge Publishers. 1998.

Wiesel E. Night. Avon, UK. Avon Books. 1969.




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