Part of the series God: From Magic to Motivation
I’m not going to embed or link to video today. This post is about a video, though.
I want to say something about the bus monitor Karen Klein and what’s happened because of a video made on a school bus. It says something about our empathy, what triggers our empathy, and what doesn’t trigger our empathy.
You might know the story. A grandmotherly bus monitor was singled out by a few thirteen-year boys. She was taunted, made fun of, and brought to tears. It was all captured on video, and put on Youtube.
Outrage. Emotional pain. Feelings of powerlessness.
A man in Canada, after seeing the video, thought this bus monitor deserved a vacation. Who deserves treatment like that anyway? Something should be done to make things right.
From that idea came the initiative to go further. Hey, this is 2012. There is enough of us connected, and emotionally attached to the situation. Certainly we actually can do something about it.
He started collecting donations.
He couldn’t change the fact that the thirteen-year-old boys had done something really stupid. He couldn’t change the torment the bus monitor went through or the public display that she had become. But with some help from other like-minded people, he could change things. He could at least get enough money together to give her the vacation she deserved after having to go through that.
Of the millions of viewers, a small percentage seemed to be willing to participate in his vision. And from those viewers that wanted to do something, contributions have poured in (continue to pour in?). Apparently the guy that set up the vacation account has collected enough to send maybe more than 120 bus monitors on the vacations they may very well deserve (if my math is off, please correct me).
If the job of bus monitor is really about enduring abuse similar to what was on the video, then certainly more than just this one bus monitor deserves a nice vacation. I mean, she can’t be the only one that has gone through this kind of abuse.
Sometimes a vacation break can put things into perspective, remind us of what’s important.
Apparently the boys have been reprimanded. One has written what I think is a sincere apology to her. The others may be following that example by now.
The parents of the boys probably feel terrible. It’s not like they wanted the world to look on their children in this way.
Thirteen-year-old boys can be really annoying. We’ve been trying for thousands upon thousands of years to turn thirteen-year-old boys into non-idiots – functioning, positive members of society. We have made up initiation rites, tribal dances, hunting parties, high school, all in the attempt to get them to smarten up.
They keep finding chances to be idiots.
Maybe it’s part of the hierarchy they find themselves in. If they feel empowered by treating others this way, then why would they even consider behaving any differently? What possible motivation could they have to change, when they seem to be enjoying themselves so much at the time, bringing discomfort to someone else?
Thirteen-year-old boys probably know how it feels to be bullied as well as any one of us.
A lot of internet video is watched alone. Our technological lifestyle has turned us into audiences of one. We are millions strong, all doing the same thing, isolated. the video of Karen Klein never really changes focus. She is almost always in middle of the shot, targeted, isolated. And in our audiences of one, when we see that experience on video, we feel it as much as watch it.
I’m really glad to know we live in a world where people can connect so immediately, and more importantly initiate action to make things right. Even if only a small fraction of all the people that saw the video did actually overcome the bystander effect, at least someone is trying to help someone. Giving Karen a vacation doesn’t solve the problem, but it shows that some people are willing to reach out, put some small effort into changing things.
But before we get too emotional about this, something more has to be said.
I think we need to ask ourselves why some cruelty has to be seen before we react to it.
Karen is one of us that had a bad experience. Her story is only different in that it was shared – it was caught on video and put on display for the world.
If we only react empathetically to the victims we actually see, then we are only really changing the smallest fraction of the victims of the world.
If we’re going to be emotional and rational about this, then we should think about the people we don’t see.
Our lives are becoming more and more public. We take our cues from our heroes. Modern day celebrities bare all for us, and act as examples. Their lives are incredibly public, out there for everyone to watch. We demand to know everything we can about them.
And we now reflect that, in our status updates, facebook timelines, personal youtube channels, and in the number of details we tick into the record about our loved ones, friends and family.
It has been projected that facebook may reach a billion people soon in 2012. Imagine being technically able to ‘friend’ a billion people. That’s a lot of attachment.
I think there may come a point in time when the pain of every victim of our idiocy is going to be on display.
Some of us seem to react to these things more that others, particularly when we’re emotionally triggered. Some of us even share in the struggle of the experience, and want to make things right.
Are we ready to share all of this with the world?
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Aside – I meant to change the background in the image, put the youtube icon there instead. Unfortunately, when it comes to time-management, I’m a life-tard.