- This woman was on the bus when Richard Whelan was stabbed a few days ago. She looked after him, but most of the other passengers were entirely passive and didn't want to be involved.
- The plane that crashed in Toronto was cleared within a couple of minutes: outstanding. But some passengers apparently had to be forcibly prevented from blocking the aisle to retrieve their luggage out of the overhead compartments. 'Hey the plane's on fire man, get a move on'.
- Some of the eyewitnesses to the Menezes shooting seem to have been highly accurate, but others seem to have seen what they expected to see, rather than what was in front of their eyes.
I have a theory that passivity is linked to social submissiveness. I also suspect that being dumb, or at least playing dumb, is a socially submissive act in many cases. People stand back and leave action to others, they say they don't know, they refuse to get involved, they don't apply their natural intelligence to the events unfolding around them. I think this is part of social disempowerment, in a highly stratified society like ours.
And, as a person who isn't very submissive, I do find that I shout or interfere more often than average (like shout 'Look Out!' to stop a stranger reversing into a cyclist). But what would I do if it was a life threatening situation? Would I panic? Would I be passive and helpless? I don't know Nobody knows until it happens.
ETA - meant to finish this post with a request for anecdotes from people who have been in crisis situations - how did you react? only if you feel comfy talking about it