How many times have you said or heard someone say, “it’s not my problem,”? Truth be told, I have said it severally and heard it umpteen times. In most of those cases, I truly believed that it wasn’t my problem to meddle in the other party’s situation. But now that I think about it, if I was in a similar situation and someone told me that it wasn’t their problem, I’d be pretty mad. This thought nagged me and consequently influenced my decision to write about society’s perception of how it’s okay unless it happens to me.
I have learned that people ask for help from people they believe to be capable of helping them. More often than not, we let people down. We are probably in a position to help but choose not to. Let’s face it, helping is a risk because we’re uncertain of whether they’d help us when the need arises. I’m not talking about financial help but, well, financial aid is what comes to mind when people say, “I need your help” or “I need a favor”. Here’s a story:
A few months ago, I went to the supermarket but when the time to pay came, I could pay. The mobile banking application wasn’t functioning. Apparently, the banks were carrying out scheduled maintenance that I didn’t know about. So, I called several people asking for help to clear the bill since I was wasting time for other customers behind me in line. I had the money in my account but there was no way of accessing it whatsoever. The cashier was angry at me and wouldn’t listen to my explanation. All the items I had taken were urgently needed in my house since they included my son’s milk among other essentials.
Everyone I called claimed they didn’t have money despite me promising to refund the money immediately after my bank completed upgrading their mobile banking systems. No one came through for me. Now, did I believe them? Of course not! If we changed the setting and we were in a club, I was sure that we would spend several tens of thousands on drinks and bites. Now that I needed two or three thousand shillings, I was left to dry. I was angry but I understood that such is life. Or maybe they didn’t have the cash available, who knows? But what are the odds? I had contacted the kind of people who always have liquid petty cash for events like this.
That’s not all. Customers behind me in line became impatient and rude. One customer furiously asked me why I had taken things that I couldn’t afford to pay. I wanted to explain that I had the cash but no way of accessing it. Instead, I decided to stay silent and let them judge me harshly. I stepped aside to access a soft loan from one of these loaning apps. The rude customer continued trash-talking highlighting how the young generation is so irresponsible. When his turn to pay came, his debit card was also rejected. Apparently, the scheduled maintenance also affected the debit cards.
It was his turn to face the wrath of another rude customer in line. These loan apps can be quite efficient at times. The soft loan app processed my loan in minutes. I paid my bill but I felt the sudden urge to address the rude customer with the phrase, “it’s okay unless it happens to you.” It wasn’t satisfying because she was older than me and I tend to respect my elders regardless. However, I needed to clear my conscience.
This happens everywhere. A while back, a Twitter user was trying to promote her business on Twitter. I’m a firm believer that social media once used appropriately can be a very efficient marketing platform. However, it can also kill one’s brand and motivation especially once they are subject to the frequently occurring trolls.
This user shared a ‘small’ milestone about her ‘small’ business. I quoted ‘small’ because the value is relative. What one person considers as small might be huge to another person. Back to the story, people trolled and mocked her for sharing such a ‘small’ milestone. It was heartbreaking watching her trend for the wrong reasons. I mean, she was just trying to survive.
A few days later, one of the people front lining the trolls was on the frying pan. She had hooked up with one of the tweeps and not performed as expected. Tweeps made fun of her. One of her tweets after being trolled read, “You people can be so mean at times. You almost pushed me into depression.” This was out of character. While she was trolling other people, it was okay. But it was different now that she had been trolled. She knew how it felt when one’s insecurity had been preyed on. She was against trolling and vowed not to troll anyone in the future. This brings me to my earlier hypothesis, “It’s okay unless it happens to you.” It was okay when she trolled people until she had been subject to the same trolls.
The next scenario also happened online. I think people feel powerful behind the keyboard probably because there are almost no consequences to what they say. Forgetting that the internet never forgets. A human rights activist had come across law enforcement officers harassing a citizen. Someone had recorded the scenario and shared it online. Such videos go viral in a matter of hours and this was no exception. People had so much to say about it. Some congratulated him for standing up for the young man but the majority asked him to mind his own business and allow the rule of law to prevail.
In most cases, people side against law enforcement agencies condemning their actions. However, this case was different because they ganged up against the human rights activist. The majority of the comments asked the activist to mind his own business and let the officers do their work. Were they right? Of course, they were right. We should allow officers to do their due diligence and charge us if they find us guilty of the crime. However, in the context of the situation, the officers were out of line since the harassment aimed at extorting the young man to give a bribe. We have been in such a situation at least once or seen it happen to somebody in the streets.
If the same people condemning the activist for running interference were in the same situation, I’m sure they would have appreciated it if someone had been there to fight for their rights. But it was okay since it was not happening to them. The same mindset of “it’s okay unless it happens to me” was in play here.
Now that I have highlighted the issue, do I have a solution? The bad news is that I don’t. Some issues have no outright solutions. All I can do is highlight them and ask my readers to be delicate. Don’t victimize someone, instead, try and understand what they are going through. Ask yourself this simple question, “what if I was in the victim’s shoes, how would I like to be treated?” I will sum this up with the phrase, “in a world where you can be anything, be kind.” The greatest lie is believing that it cannot happen to you.
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