This year I want to pose the same question in a number of different scenarios based on things that I see or read in current events. The question – ‘What would you do’, places us in the position of witness, perhaps even a participant in any given event. Though it may seem rhetorical, I believe that there are valuable insights and lessons to be learned from each scenario. I also think that your initial perception and assessment of any circumstances may change depending on where you are in your life.
But how can any one person physically be involved in all of the events that are happening at one moment around the entire world in order to learn a lesson from it? In my mind, it’s absolutely impossible. Sure we have the technology to participate in conversations via the social media tools that are available to us but what if there is an actual event, catastrophic or otherwise? You can’t understand the emotions that someone feels unless you are actually there, in the flesh.
Sure, there are times when you have a similar experience, but the events leading up to or even the things that occur immediately after were only experienced by those who were present.
So I play the WWYD game. Mostly, I play the game to evaluate my own thoughts, potential actions, outcomes and possibilities if I were put in that position. But I do it because I’m fascinated by the actions taken by humans when they are faced with a decision.
And by the way, I’m positively sure that this is not a game that I invented. In fact, this same question is the premise of an ABC show of the same title that poses the same question to its viewers after setting up a scenario for unsuspecting people who have unwittingly become the shows social case study.
So here is my scenario: You and a friend are on a trip with peers. You’re both fairly new to the group but you’ve developed camaraderie with some of the trip-goers. At some point during the trip, some of your peers decide that for the both of you to be completely accepted by the group, you have to undergo a number of ‘tests’. You think it’s stupid but don’t say anything. But you’re friend absolutely refuses to take part. Unfortunately, what you think doesn’t matter because everyone else has had to go through the same ritual and so must you. Suddenly, the group starts beating on your friend. Chaos erupts and your friend is lost in the commotion.
I’m in a dilemma now. I want to be a part of the group, but I don’t want to take part in this silly game in order to be accepted. If I keep quiet, they are going to assume that I am okay with whatever it is they want me to do. If I’m vocal about it, or worse tell someone about it, I’m going to be ostracized or perhaps suffer worse consequences. So do I sit this one out and allow my friend to be beaten to death and wait for bygones to be bygones? Or do I take action despite the obvious peril or at the least being a social outcast?
A similar scenario played out in a hotel parking lot when members of the Florida A&M University marching band was beaten to death. Information is still surfacing in the case but I wondered what I might have done if I was a friend of Robert Champion, Jr. witnessing the harassment he must have suffered before he was brutally beaten.
The hero in me wants to say that I would not stand by and watch someone die, especially if that someone is helpless, defenseless and crying out for help. But would I really do that if there was a possibility that I would suffer the same fate?
What if I was one of the instigators with a blood lust? At some point would a conscious thought come to my mind telling me that this is wrong? What were all of the bystanders and witnesses doing at the time of the beating? Did anyone think that it would actually result in the death of a peer? A friend perhaps? Someone whom you had had a discussion with while sitting in a classroom with them on campus?
I’ve taken a moment to think about this and I’ve come to this conclusion about myself – I’ve done it before and I would do it again. I cannot stand idly by and watch another human being be victimized no matter what the situation might have been. At the very least, I would have notified the authorities and I would not lie or be silent in order to cover up the actions of those who are involved.
But that’s just me … WWYD?