Stand Up

A few years ago a friend and I were hanging out at a dev conference and we were talking to someone generally well known and well respected in our community. The guy was essentially berating my friend about a pretty inconsequential detail of my friend’s app stack, and though my friend made a good defense for their stack, and tried to agree to disagree, the guy kept berating them.

I knew this hurt my friend, to be given shit by somebody generally respected, in front of our peers. I just stood there. I just stood there.

My friend and I talked it over afterwards, and they were OK. But there was a clear moment when I knew I should have said something in the moment, and I didn’t. It was clear as day to me that I should have done something, and I didn’t.

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I used to work on a team with a very toxic coworker. On more than one occasion, he publicly shamed me in our team’s Slack room. That hurt pretty bad, but what was worse was that nobody, not one of my teammates stood up for me. Some of my peers privately messaged me about it, which was nice and helped, but nobody called out the toxic guy. Not even our tech lead, who I quite looked up to (until then).

It’s bad enough to be bullied, but it’s especially degrading to have people watch and do nothing about it.

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There have been more moments than I’d like to admit when I saw something wrong, and knew exactly what to do, but instead did nothing. Whether it’s somebody being bullied, or somebody who just needed help in any way, I’m ashamed to say there have been many times when I didn’t stand up. But I’ve been actively working on changing that.

For the past few months, when I see somebody who needs help, I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the voice inside me that knows what to do, but is usually ignored, and I’ve listened to it. It’s oddly difficult, but I’m doing my best to stand up.

I’ve helped people on the street. I’ve twice called out people being assholes at work, telling them and other people around me that their behaviour is not OK, and have sympathized with those who were bullied. I even wrote a post about not being mean. I’m not saying any of this to self-aggrandize, and I obviously don’t need any kudos, because as far as I’m concerned, standing up is just the bare minimum for being a good human being.

Given the current political climate in the world, given America has elected a fascist as its president, I feel like we’re all going to need to be standing up a lot more. We should have been doing it all along.

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Joshua Gosse
Ah, the classic Bystander effect:

Crazy that this is a thing that happens, especially since it is just so easy to do something about anything.

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