The world and it’s people must take shared responsibility and unite during these times of crisis.
I had the opportunity to be a part of a conflict mediation and resolution training at the age of 13 where I was first introduced to the term bystander, a person who is present at an event or incident, but does not take part . On the other hand, an upstander is an individual who chooses to take positive action in the face of injustice in society or in situations in which individuals need assistance.
The word upstander was not officially added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary until 2015, after a anti-bullyling campaign by New Jersey highschool students, and it still remains undocumented in many well known dictionaries.
In a world ”dominated” by bystanders, this distinction is extremely important. It seems so simple. Each of us has the power to remain positive, speak up and take action, but then why is it so hard in practice? Perhaps it is because we are fearful for the consequences of our actions. Historically upstanders have been jailed, have suffered greatly for their actions or even been murdered. In many ways these acts of violence reveal there is a deep fundamental issue residing in the world’s divided societies.
It has been said time and again that we cannot afford to remain silent. Support and encouragement are needed in everyday life. It is not a myth that acts of kindness spread. By taking positive action in our homes and local communities we are also supporting a united global community.
The 13 year old me, who vowed to be an upstander and yet chose to remain quiet in fear of becoming the next victim, is a choice I will regret forever.
It is never their problem or your problem but instead it is always our problem. Let us not wait to “see what happens” to our world and its people. It will not get better until we as ordinary citizens implement “good ideas” in our every day practices. Accepting diversity is not a about a social trend or corporate quota for gender or race but it is the individual responsibility of each of us to be the upstanding leaders we want to see, starting with our local and extending to the global community.
Coffeebreak rooms and dining room tables are often echoing discussions about the topics of current crises. A negative media stream floods our minds and the messages rarely encourage or promote positive change. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves that they want to be a bystander and watch the world crumble beneath them.
If this was the case we would not spend countless hours reading, writing and talking in our private lives about the issues overwhelming the local and global communities. You do NOT need to be a politician to speak up or have a doctor’s title to diagnose some of the world’s illnesses, as global citizens we have the power to unite and together upstand the most tragic events.
4 Tips on how to be the best upstanding you
1) Educate yourself:
Awareness comes from educating yourself about what’s happening, but be careful when searching for information. Mass media only paints one picture of the world and its current events. Instead look at a variety of sources and talk to people with real experience.
“Once you are aware it stays in the back of your head. At some later point after many days, months or years you will say, okay that is it, I have to do something about this.” –Nghi Dang
Start with your friends, family and raising awareness in the local community. Action can also be by sharing facts, stories are a powerful tool to implement a seed of an idea for change. Technology allows us to get informed, share, and act fast but there is never any shortcut to change.
“The first step is always to be aware of the situation and then the choice to be an up stander or bystander comes.” –Nghi Dang
For some being an upstander comes easy and for others it takes a lot of time, courage and support. It is your own decision to either remain as a bystander or take action.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Reflecting on what went well and what went wrong and how others reacted to your action can reveal both the areas of success and the factors which hinder progress. After the experience comes new insight, which can lead to new ideas and further action. You may even find that your confidence was boosted and your commitment to being a part of the positive change in the world has increased. Whatever and wherever a crisis occurs, the call for action should never be ignored.
“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”
- Yvonne Woon
Written by Emily Auvinen