The man on the street and his cowardly ways

I just watched a documentary called 'Would You Save a Stranger?' and, well I guess it's quite obvious what it was about. It  explored the diffusion of responsibility, the concept that if you ever saw a fellow human in distress, you would have faith in the actions of others and shy away from responsibility yourself.
The documentary looked at quite a few individual cases where people had been attacked in public, and strangers had either stepped in or the victims were left alone.
One case that was particularly difficult to stomach was told by a mother who had lost her son. He stepped in in order to diffuse an attack and was stabbed in the heart as a result. Another case was that of a girl who had been cornered on a busy bus and was pushed to the floor, stamped on, jumped on and kicked. Nobody on the bus helped her.
We're all aware that these things happen, but it's very uncomfortable to actually think about. If I passed someone on the street, they could quite possibly smile in my direction. If I was then randomly attacked, the chances are that they would keep their head down and pretend that they hadn't seen anything. I go through life being polite(ish) to strangers, but how do I know whether they would step in and save my life?
The woman who lost her son described him as the kind of person who had his own opinions and didn't necessarily keep them to himself. It was this personality trait that led him to getting involved on that fatal day. The gang he approached were picking on a group of younger boys, which he didn't agree with, and was the reason he intervened.
What I really admired was what his mother said about the attack. She said that she wouldn't have changed anything about her son, especially the need to voice his opinions, which was the reason he got involved and ultimately murdered. She said that she would still fully agree on anyone doing the same and stepping in to help save someone's life. She talked of how angry she was, because all it took was a momentary slice of a blade, and her son's life vanished.

Most of us spend a lot of time out in the big, wide world, with others around us. I'd like to think that  I could count on strangers if I needed to - but this documentary, sadly, shows that sometimes, we can't.
There is a wealth of research on the diffusion of responsibility. Of course, getting involved in an attack where there are weapons involved is a dilemma where certain questions surface- should you get involved?

When you're sat on a crowded bus, observing a 12 year old girl getting attacked by a gang of unarmed girls, I can't help but think it's less an assumption that someone else will help, and more selfishness.
Watching this documentary reminded me of something I once read about the Buddhist's perception of compassion towards strangers: 'Every single person is the same, in that we're all fighting to stay happy and avoid suffering'. We all have something very simple in common, and walking among unfamiliar faces on the street, we should feel safe. The 99% of people around us should keep us safe from the 1% we can't trust.

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