A sense of community is something I often feel is missing from life these days. I remember listening to my Grandad’s tales of times passed, and thinking how much more spirited people seemed. Perhaps it was due to the war effort and a sense of camaraderie, but these days, you don’t see much evidence of it.
People seem more content to keep themselves to the themselves, and to only bother standing up for a cause if it will have a direct effect on them.
I have a habit of making my opinion clear about issues that I believe to be important, but I think that much of this stems from my belief that being a bystander – and doing nothing to stop an act that may be atrocious – is as bad as committing the act oneself.
I teach a lot about the Holocaust in my line of work, and having an in-depth knowledge of what can happen if you stand by and do nothing, changes your opinions on how to deal with a situation. We may not (thankfully) be talking about something that can have a devastating impact on humanity, but, as everyone with a fragment of intelligence or social conscience knows, life is usually about the little things.
From standing by observing bullying in the playground, to listening to a ‘friend’ bad-mouth somebody whilst saying nothing yourself to defend them, from being unhappy with the way your child’s school have dealt with an incident but not making the effort to say, to loathing government policies yet sitting on your backside and forgetting to vote; if you don’t stand up and say something, then nothing will change.
Sometimes of course, people have a tendency to shoot the messenger. Plenty of parents blame teachers for term-time holiday fines (the responsibility for which lies with the government), and plenty of people in hospitals blame staff for failings that, again, are actually the fault of the government. These alone are further evidence to use your vote – or your metaphorical vote – wisely. Because we are the people who give power to the government – we put them there.
This evening, people in my street are grouping together to show a respectful objection to a planning application. Many have lodged their valid and logical objections online too, and, equally, many haven’t.
Some of those who haven’t most likely don’t object, some won’t have online access, but others still will simply have had better things to do with their time, and decided to let others do the ‘dirty work’ for them.
I wonder how much of this attitude has led to our current government being re-elected, and how the bystanders will feel when they are the person who, one day, needs a morally supporting hand.
First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 19th May 2015