Let me tell you a sad, but informative story.
Kitty Genovese worked as a bar manager in New York City in the 1960s. She lived with her loving partner Mary Ann Zielonko, but was sadly killed in what became an earth-shattering, globally publicized case.
On March 13th, 1964, Kitty was stabbed in two separate but consecutive attacks by a sick, sad man by the name of Winston Moseley in the parking lot outside her apartment complex. She died as a result.
Many neighbors heard her screams and cries for help, though most people didn’t interpret them as such. The New York Times ran an article claiming 37 people witnessed the murder and failed to call the police.
This has since been debunked, and it is now understood about 12 people saw or heard portions of the crime—though no one witnessed the entirety of the act.
However, it did spur the development of the new psychological theory of bystander effect (AKA “Genovese syndrome”), which explains that people are driven to inaction in a crisis because—when people are in groups where responsibility is not explicitly assigned—the responsibility for taking action is diffused. That is to say, each person thinks the others will be the ones to call the cops or intervene, or they assume that everything has already been taken care of.
A courageous Ms. Sophia Farrar came quickly to Kitty’s aid when she was dying in an alley near her apartment complex, even though the attacker could have still been around. She got a rightful commendation for her bravery in the later conviction of Moseley.
However, only two people actually saw the stabbing. Karl Ross, who saw the second stabbing, quickly called the police. And a previous witness who saw the first stabbing but said nothing:
Joseph Fink… why does that sound familiar?
Oh, dear God.
Guys, don’t be a Joseph Fink. Be a Karl Ross. Or even a Sophia Farrar. We could all use some more Karls and Sophias in this world.
P.S. Rest in peace, Kitty, knowing that even in death you shined a light on the unknown flaws of society. You have not passed away in vain.