There’s a certain TV show I usually watch Friday nights. During the show, I’m usually annoyed by one or two previews for the show that follows it – “What Would You Do?” Annoyed because, based solely on the previews, I’ve never watched that show and never will. I object to the show on at least two levels.
First, I find it inappropriate that scenarios are staged for no useful purpose. I do not believe anything positive is achieved by showing that some folks do, and other folks do not, behave according to a moral standard that is subjective. Which all moral standards are. Although the show’s title is a question, there’s little doubt from the previews what the answer should be: “intervene.”
A few years ago, a former boss noted at a staff meeting that certain employees were coming to him complaining about some co-workers. About how they were coming in late and/or leaving early for the day and/or lunch and/or taking long breaks.
This behavior of other employees, he noted, was not anyone’s business but management’s. His pointed reminder to all staff was: “Stay in your lane.” Do your job properly and you’ll have no problems. But do not try to manage the office because you are not a manager.
I believe strongly in staying in my lane – both in and out of the office. But “What Would You Do?” believes that folks should be getting into someone else’s lane. And if they do not, then the message is they are morally deficient.
Most of the preview’s I’ve seen are not criminal scenarios. They’ve been scenarios such as a boss publicly berating and belittling an “assistant” or a parent behaving the same way towards their child. I may not believe the behavior is appropriate in public (or even in private, perhaps) but by what right do I impose my personal standards on other folks? That path is the path to tyranny – moral and otherwise.
It seems the show’s purpose is to allow viewers an opportunity to judge others morally and, by extension, leave viewers either feeling morally superior to those who did not intervene or applauding those who “did the right thing” by intervening. The audience can then collectively agree that those who did not intervene are examples of why society is in decline while those who did intervene are beacons of hope.
And that’s my second objection to the show: the unwarranted motal smugness of the audience. I do not believe that anyone, including me, can know what they will do in any “situation.” Like Sunday morning quarterbacks, it’s very easy to sit back, completely removed from the true reality of this “reality” show, and criticize the folks who do not intervene. Implicit in such criticism is that the viewer would have intervened.
Anyone can, and unfortunately so many do, pontificate about how they would “do the right thing” in a situation. But until that situation arises those pronouncements are little more than speculation. The psychological and emotional reality of situations have an…interesting…way of changing detached intellectual analysis.
There is no substitute for the reality of the moment. And how we act in that moment of reality is all that matters. (Which is one reason why philosophically I am an existentialist.)
Many years ago, some folks where I live stopped to help two women whose vehicle had “broken down” in a somewhat remote area. The women’s male accomplices then emerged from the bushes and robbed (and possibly killed) these folks.
I suspect that when the story appeared in the press many folks clucked that the victims should not have stopped. Yet, I wonder if these same folks would have the same attitude if this scenario was on “What Would You Do?” but without the criminals? Just because a situation is in a very public place with lots of other folks doesn’t mean that the situation cannot escalate into a very dangerous one.
Remember what happened when someone in South Florida saw a “suspicious” person in the neighborhood and followed that person even though 911 warned him not to? Trayvon Martin was killed and George Zimmerman is now facing a second degree murder charge.
That scenario could easily have been one that “What Would You Do?” had contrived. And what would its viewers have said about those who did NOT follow this “suspicious” person if they did not have the knowledge of how the Trayvon Martin situation ended?
The “right thing to do” is to stay in your lane if it is not a criminal situation and to call the police if it is a criminal situation and let them handle it. I know where the road paved with good intentions leads. And I’m not going there.