Recognizing the Bystander Effect with Social Unrest

don't give up. You are not alone, you matter signage on metal fence

I have been on the fence about whether to speak up about what’s been going on, both in my personal life and in the collective world.

I work during the day as a job developer and still wear multiple hats as a roaming storytelling strategist.

I still ghostwrite.

I still have clients.

I still struggle to sleep.

I still daydream about Miami.

As much as I don’t want to deprioritize these musings, my reality is that I am beyond exhausted and am hesitant to overwhelm my senses by asserting an opinion about an already hot and divisive topic.

But, as I was reminded, I talk too much and so I wouldn’t be “me” if I wasn’t talking my shit about what’s going on because unlike some, I don’t want to tap out. I don’t want to ignore.

I don’t want to be that person who chooses silence over contributing to a larger conversation.

So let’s take a trip down memory lane…

My first graphic design was in college. The year was 1999. I got my first computer and was quick to get desktop publishing programs installed. I made flyers for the organization I was a part of as well as some projects for my hobbies.

I wanted to start a magazine in college and spent a whole summer in that fantasy.

This is the unofficial origin story for my entrepreneurial journey.

Sure, I often recall the memory of partnering with a friend to do consulting and that was definitely how I got started with web design. However, the seeds of building something from scratch started in my early 20s while I was still an inquisitive and somewhat delusional free spirit.

I majored in sociology which served as the perfect setup, unofficially, for brand strategy.

Knowing why groups of people do what they do helps offer context to the questions of our past. I remember learning about the Bystander Effect in social psychology.

Bystander Effect is a theory that speaks to how we overestimate our involvement when we witness someone in distress.

  • How many times do you step in when someone needs support?
  • Do you gauge the cost associated with getting involved?

There are many reasons why we don’t insert ourselves when someone is in need.

I’ve compartmentalized these reasons into one bucket: survival.

  • How many times have you seen someone step in and get injured?

There is always a risk associated with helping others. Juxtapose this insight with what we know about American history and how this country came to be.

We are conditioned to believe that America’s pastimes are apple pie and baseball.

However nothing is more patriotic to the fibers of this country like genocide and ethnic cleansing.

If you’ve developed critical thinking skills, you can read between the lines of what we were taught in school and if you were paying attention, the yellow brick road originates from the same place.

You can connect the dots right back to white supremacy, patriarchy, and christianity.

Everything that the United States does is absolutely ON BRAND with what this country has always been.

Whether it’s assaulting protestors or funding genocides in other countries, what is happening right now with dissent getting silenced and punished is IN ALIGNMENT with the values the “American Way.”

We have a ruling class that will assert its authority to secure their position in the hierarchy. We even celebrated the romantic retelling of our nation on Broadway with Hamilton.

As someone who values integrity, identity, and freedom – I would be a coward to shy away from lending another voice for this discourse.

I am hardly an authority on the toxicity of organized religion or sanctioned genocide but I can speak about brand strategy and storytelling which is very present in the current state of affairs.

The more you know about how stories are weaponized to further an agenda, the easier it is to identify how we’re being played.

And make no mistake…we are all being played.

These dangerous shenanigans aren’t just “by design.” They are very much ON BRAND with how power is consolidated and how land grabs are justified to solidify one’s place in the hierarchy.

The game of life has always been about power and the story starts and ends there.

I am pro-liberation for anyone who is being occupied, whether that is in Palestine or Puerto Rico.

I am also trying to make sense of things but for me to feign ignorance would mean I’d have to abandon everything I know about strategy.

Once you understand the concept of strategy and storytelling, it puts into perspective everything about our existence in this fucked up world and why we’re repeating patterns of authoritarianism on purpose.

Just like when Hollywood remakes a “classic,” you can change the actors without changing the story.

It makes me wonder if history repeats itself on purpose.

I cannot talk about being in alignment if I am not willing to own the causes I am aligned with.

I cannot talk about brand strategy if I am not vocal about how storytelling is weaponized to coral others into a false of community by manufacturing fake outrage and fear.

It’s not a coincidence that there’s chaos during this critical Aries north node transit.

Clarity is difficult in the midst of chaos which is why we’re left to figure shit out on our own during a rampant pandemic with political leadership that are showing their hands in the worst way possible.

The more that I reflect on it, entrepreneurship is a decent primer for life, in general.

The entrepreneurial journey teaches us to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Navigating the nuance of ambition and life is a clusterfuck.

If you can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, how are you going to manage WW3 and a tropical storm turning into a cat 5 hurricane within 24 hours…at the same time?

Brand origin stories are about how we discovered who we always were.

It’s beyond disheartening to watch people who are exercising their freedom of speech get punished, fired, and ostracized for showing solidarity with a region that has been trying to survive an imposed apartheid.

If this does not get you to abandon “love + light” or “thoughts + prayers” then I don’t know what else to tell you.

The thing about a strong brand story is the consistency in which it’s told and how it emboldens others. We are all experiencing the reality of our world’s collective brand story.

You just have to decide how much longer can you afford to be the bystander.