The bystander effect is an interesting phenomenon. In the event of very unpleasant situations, even sexual assaults, someone standing around watching passively impacts the reactions of others around.
When something wrong is happening, some people want to intervene or help. Their urge to help is dampened or lowered if they have another person just passively standing by, as opposed to if they are all alone.
But this bystander effect is relevant when the cost of intervention is low. If the cost of intervention is high, the bystander effect may not show much of an impact.
Francesca Gino explains this in a Harvard Business Review article.
In one study, participants were either alone or with a passive bystander. They witnessed an incident in which a man sexually harassed a woman (in reality, both the man and the woman were actors). To vary how costly intervening was, the experimenters varied the perpetrator’s physical stature. In the low-cost condition, the perpetrator was a small man with a slight build. In the high-cost condition, the perpetrator was tall and looked fierce. When intervening would be less costly, 50% of participants helped when no other bystander was present, whereas only 5.9% of participants helped when there was another bystander
. But when the cost was high, fewer participants stepped in, whether or not another bystander was present
So, when we speak up in the face of injustice and crime, we do more than show courage. We enable other voices to speak up as well.
It is easy for people to speak up when the cost is low. It is very tough to speak up when the cost of intervention is high.
And that is precisely what those who want to control a population and spread terror do - they increase the cost for those who stand up. They make an example out of them.
After that, very few dare to stand up. And, so a population of bystanders is created. When the cost is high and bystanders aplenty, hardly any opposition comes up against the fascists and the tyrants.
That is why what folks like Kangana Ranaut and Vivek Agnihotri have done is so path-breaking when it comes to Sushant Singh Rajput’s murder. They are not just marked but complete pariahs.
What appears to be a deep controversy with participation between the politicians, unscrupulous movie cliques (or mafia?), ideologically compromised media and even perhaps the underworld has shaken the country.
And, it has shown the entire movie fraternity in strange colors.
Amitabh Bachchan is the greatest performer that Indian movies has seen. He is not just revered as a god but he has dictated trends and ways people work, behave and live.
He has achieved more than anyone can in his chosen field. No matter what one says, his body of work is enough to shut any critic up. Money he has made is enough to last for generations.
With his clout, any other person would have the ability to set the moral compass of the society. Or at least raise valid questions on any injustice being done in the society.
During the greatest Dharmic event of the millennia - the Ram Janmabhoomi bhoomi pujan - and in the raging battle for justice for Sushant Singh, he has allowed himself to become a caricature.
Socially and culturally, he is inconsequential. Just plain uselessly inconsequential. A pedestrian really.
How could the greatest performer in Indian cinema ever with a following that has prayed him back to life at every crisis, be such a social non-entity when it really mattered?
One can think of these three reasons for his sorry state:
- He is a weak, vain, insecure, greedy and delusional human being, who despite his accomplishments and living all the dreams a person in his field can have, still is in the maintenance mode. He sees the risk of loss to be too high for him to take. Despite being the numero uno for last half a century! You can only pity such a person.
- The pressure and threats to him are so high by underworld and/or unscrupulous politicians that despite his urge to speak, he has been silenced. And he has no recourse or power to challenge them. Something that strangely, Kangana and Vivek have.
- He is inherently a scoundrel who doesn’t really care for anyone and can’t waste his time on social well-being. He was always in it for himself and he wants to keep cruising on in his sorry life.
Which of these defines him is for him and those who know him to decide.
His silence, and those of others like him, has been deafening.
And this brings the courage of those like Kangana and Vivek to the fore.
They surely have far fewer accomplishments, clout and money to fall back upon. Yet, for whatever they have with them, they have risked it all.
That is rare.
They, and not the Amitabh Bachchans, are the socially consequential voices. Powered by sheer grit!
On another note - the silence shows the rot that has been wrought by the powers and their tyranny in the society. We should not discount the intensity, depth and the viciousness of those powers.