How responsible are bystanders of bullying when they may not necessarily participate in the bullying but see it happening and choose to turn a blind eye to it? When they could’ve helped stop it but decided not to?
The truth is that they’re just as responsible as the bullies themselves. Anyone who watches evil and does nothing about it is guilty!
“Judge Lake was applying the legal principle of willful blindness. ‘You are responsible if you could have known, and should have known, something that instead you strove not to see.’ In this case, Skilling and Lay could have known and had the opportunity to know just how rotten their company was. Their claim not to know was no excuse under the law. Since they could’ve known, they were responsible.” (Margaret Hefferman – “Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril” 2012, pp. 1-2)
In the book cited above, the author referred to the trial which followed the Enron Scandal, in which Chairmen Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay were both found guilty and sentenced to federal prison.
The same can be said for bullying as well, although bullying and embezzlement are two different things. In bullying, a person may or may not go to prison, but the principle is still the same. If bystanders could’ve or should’ve known, and in a vast majority of bullying incidents, they know but decide not to do the right thing, these bystanders are also guilty.
Willful blindness happens all the time and has down through history.
It was the same in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, the Stalinist Soviet Union, Castro’s Cuba. And yes, even right here in America, our very own media ignores Antifa’s destruction of our cities and terrorizing everyday citizens- mainly citizens who are elderly and can’t protect themselves. Willful blindness has always been alive and well.
It even happens at home. A businessman is working late every single night, yet his dutiful wife doesn’t entertain the probability that he might be having an affair. And why would she if she’s invested her entire life in her marriage, family, and home?
When bullies prey on those perceived to have the least power to fight back, those who see it, hear of it, and who can put a stop to it, only close their eyes to it, or worse, join in. And the sad thing is that in most bullying situations, people feel complete apathy, indifference, even hatred toward the target. And where there are apathy and indifference, bullying isn’t hidden but done in plain sight- in full view of many people who only choose to look the other way and not even to question it, much less call it out.
Willful blindness is all around us. It seems that only a few souls want to address the fact that certain extremist and terrorist groups wish to bring Communism to America through The Great Reset and a pandemic that is real but being used to promote the agenda of arrogant, power hungry, and evil elites.
Willful blindness has other names as well- willful ignorance and cognitive dissonance. Put plainly, people don’t want to know and, therefore, act like they don’t. In willful blindness, we only acknowledge what makes us feel good, confirms our beliefs, and soothes our delicate egos. We never take the time to ask questions, investigate, nor do our research because we’re either too lazy or so afraid that what we found out might prove us to be wrong! And that’s especially true with bullying.
When we hate someone, we want to believe the absolute worst of them. When a target is bullied, bullies and bystanders don’t want to think that the person might be an excellent person with a heart of gold. They don’t want to get to know the target first because they’re afraid that they just might end up liking the person (gasp!). It sure makes you wonder how much proof to the contrary bullies and bystanders are willing to ignore.
Many factors contribute to willful blindness- fear of conflict, fear of change, a compulsion to go along with the crowd, money, and material gain. Also, it provides social safety- an example would be keeping your mouth shut to your best friend when you know her husband has a chick on the side. It’s much easier to act like you don’t know about it because you’re afraid of what it might do to your friendship if you told her.
There are many reasons for willful blindness. And no, those reasons aren’t excuses. But watching someone get bullied and pounded to a pulp without helping the person or running to get help is just wrong on so many levels, especially if the person getting bullied is supposed to be a friend.
So, know that if you have trouble with a bully and your friends and others around you see it but don’t lift a finger to help you, it only shows what kind of people they are- and who you should drop from your life. It shows you that it’s time to pick new friends.
With knowledge comes empowerment.