The Real Problem With The New York Subway Photo

Where is Everyone Else?

Many of you will have seen the furore surrounding the photo of a dying man on the front page of the New York Post this week. Much of the discussion has centered around the ethics of the photographer and the newspaper.

My first question was about the empty platform. That is to say, the large section of the platform that appeared in the photo. There were people on the platform, but they had all moved away from Ki Suk Han, who was desperately trying to climb off the tracks. This was not the usual case of a person on the subway tracks – normally they are unconscious or close to it. This would have been the easiest subway rescue in history. And yet, it didn’t happen.

So, what was going on? That’s what all the articles were asking. The problem is, we know the answer. It’s the Bystander Effect. It’s the same thing that happens every time. We know exactly what was happening in people’s minds. Some stayed away because they thought they might get pushed down onto the tracks. Some thought they might fall in or be pulled in by the victim. Some thought there would be someone else better qualified or skilled for the job. Some figured someone else would do it. Some assumed those closer were responsible. Some had the primal instinct kick in that says you should only risk your safety to protect those of your own “tribe” – anyone different is expendable.

We know why. Yet, we don’t do anything as a society to reduce the Bystander Effect.

When a kid gets beaten up in the hallway in your school, what happens? Is there a large empty space around them? Is it because those watching think they might get “pulled in”? Is it because they think someone else is supposed to stop the fight (staff members)? Is it that they think if they’re further away, they’re less responsible? Is it because they are thinking more about how they’re different from the victim than how they’re similar?

We know why. What are we doing to prevent this? What can we do?

The solution is to address these problems on a long term basis, putting into practice hero-building techniques. This is not something that is going to generate statistics to show a board or a set of rules to hand to teachers and students. It’s about creating relationships and community. Call me if that sounds attractive. (810) 869 4376.

Comments are closed.