One of the daily devotional books I read had the topic of “When Good Men Do Nothing”, it’s short.
“Often injustice lies in what you aren’t doing, not only in what you are doing.”
History abounds with evidence that humanity is capable of doing evil, not only actively but passively. In some of our most shameful moments—from slavery to the Holocaust to segregation to the murder of Kitty Genovese—guilt wasn’t limited to perpetrators but to ordinary citizens who, for a multitude of reasons, declined to get involved. It’s that old line: all evil needs to prevail is for good men to do nothing.
It’s not enough to just not do evil. You must also be a force for good in the world, as best you can.
The Kitty Genovese murder was horrific. The 28 year old had finished her shift at work as a bar manager and drove home in her red Fiat. She parked her car at the train station across from her Kew Gardens apartment building and started walking home. A 29 year old bucket of chum had followed her home. He was married with kids, had a job and had decided that day that he wanted to kill a woman because he preferred killing women because they were easier and didn’t fight back. He had been driving around about an hour looking for a victim. He began to chase her as she was walking across the street. He initially stabbed her twice but when a couple of people opened their windows in response to her screams and yelled at him he took off. Kitty staggered down the street trying to make it to her apartment. Some of the witnesses said they called the police and said a woman got beat up, but she was up and walking. It doesn’t matter, the police didn’t come. When said bucket of chum had sat in his car about ten minutes and didn’t hear police sirens he got out and went looking for her. He finally found her in the vestibule of her apartment building. He continued to stab her, stole her money and raped her.
Kitty was unable to continue to scream much as his first stab of the second attack was to her throat so she couldn’t scream. But she did make noise. About the only hero in the story is 4’11” Sophie Farrar who heard the commotion, yelled at someone to call the police and flew down the stairs to confront whatever. She held and comforted the dying Kitty. Total time of attacks was about half an hour.
Not much initially happened after the murder until a NY Slimes story came out and claimed 38 people had witnessed the murder and done nothing. And, it being the NY Slimes #FakeNews, the story was later de-bunked. But in typical NY Slimes #FakeNews fashion, they wanted to make news with a point about urban indifference. So, facts? Who needs ‘em. There were actually two men, who most likely saw it happening.
Joseph Fink was an assistant superintendent at the building across the street from Genovese’s. Stationed in the building’s lobby, he had a clear view of the first stabbing, and later told prosecutors that he “thought about going downstairs to get my baseball bat,” but took a nap instead. When asked by the prosecutor why he didn’t help, he shrugged. Another prosecutor later said, “It made me sick to my stomach dealing with this man.”
And the other? Karl Ross, a dog groomer and friend of Kitty’s.
As was his habit, Ross had been drinking the night of the murder. At 3:30 a.m., he heard a noise outside his window that sounded like a woman screaming.
“Skittish by nature, the groggy Ross wasn’t eager to find out what was happening,” Cook writes. “He stayed where he was. He waited, hoping the noises would stop. Soon they died down. He relaxed.”
But a few minutes later, a similar noise arose, this one closer, possibly “a scuffling” or “a muffled cry.”
“Ross stood by his door but didn’t open it,” Cook writes. “He paced behind it, wondering what he should do. At last his curiosity got the best of him. He opened the door a crack.”
What he saw was Genovese, his friend, “lying flat on her back . . . trying to speak” as Moseley continued stabbing her. Suddenly, Moseley stopped — and looked directly at Ross, who retreated into his apartment as quickly as possible.
Instead of calling the police, Ross wasted time calling other neighbors for advice, and they, for reasons unclear, then called others. It was a fatal game of telephone that wasted precious minutes, until Farrar finally yelled at Ross to call the police while she rushed to comfort the victim. Ross called at 3:55, too late to save Genovese’s life.
When the police questioned him about why he didn’t help, Ross inadvertently invented a phrase that would come to symbolize civic apathy, telling them, “I didn’t want to get involved.”
But it did prompt some interesting psychology studies. The Bystander, or Kitty Genovese Effect.
Several psychologists were asked by the the Slimes writer how could someone attempt to kill another person in front of a large group of witnesses like that, and why would none of them get involved or attempt to help? None could answer. Albert Seedman, who was chief of detectives at the time got an answer for that from the psychopath.
‘I knew they wouldn’t do anything, people never do’
Seedman is a pretty interesting guy, at the time, he was the only Jewish officer ever to rise to that rank, and solved some pretty amazing crimes.
But it sounds like the more witnesses, the less likely you are to receive help. Then you add in groups that hate you for what you are. That has been made easy for them by the way they were raised, or their own beliefs. It seems another component is what others around them are doing.
What I’m thinking of now is a article I saw earlier about Austrian State May Require Jews to Register to Buy Kosher Meat I know, it’s Haaretz #FakeNews which is about as reliable as the NY Slimes #FakeNews. And it didn’t fly Austria rejects registering Jews for kosher meat the AFP of course said it was a “far right” party that wanted to implement it. AFP seems to be unaware that on the political spectrum “far right” is anarchy. Communists, socialists, nazis, demoncrats, progressives are are just different flavors of the same big government control poison. Anarchy is the opposite. But, it’s the AFP, so. It was claimed there was a need to do this from a animal welfare aspect. Interesting, because in one of Rabbi Tovia’s lectures he talked about having to work in a slaughter house. Yes, it was awful but what he learned was that killing the animal in a Kosher way, was less traumatic and painful for them then the way all the other animals were slaughtered.
But back to witnesses and those raised to hate certain groups of people, Turkish man beats Jews in front of kosher shop in Vienna.
I guess one way or another, there are ways of making people feel unwelcome, the approach they take depends on the direction politically they want to come at it.
It makes me think of all those “helpful” bits of advice we are given like don’t be in a bad neighborhood. Kew Gardens in the 60s was a safe, peaceful neighborhood. Don’t go places alone, Kitty was in a very populated area. She died while her friend watched her being stabbed to death. The police are only moments away. Yeahhh, well. And then there are those that want us to disarm while they hire armed bodyguards. No, just say no. Now there’s a platitude I could get behind.
But “I didn’t want to get involved” or “All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing”. The choice is always ours, but last saying “Prior and proper planning prevents p*** poor performance”. Yep, I’ll take that one, because I don’t want to be Kitty, and I choose to be a force for good in the world. Today bystanders not only don’t want to get involved, they are as likely to stand there and film it or stream it live. Evil may be succeeding, but the choice is still ours.