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Quotes / Bystander Syndrome

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"Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
but has trouble enough of its own."
Solitude, Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Security Guard: What's the matter with you, mister?? All you hadda do was trip him! Or hold him for just a minute!
Spider-Man: Sorry, pal! That's your job!

Everybody's gay, with other people's asses.
Catchphrase by comedian Enrique Balbontin

We'll just pass him there / Why should we even care?

Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.
— The Monsignor, The Boondock Saints

It's a very tragic event, okay? But the simple fact remains I do not know this little girl. I do not know starving children in Panama. I do not know people who die of disease in Egypt. The only person I knew in this event was Jeremy Strohmeyer and I know as his best friend that he had potential. I'm sad that I lost a best friend.
Real Life Jerkass David Cash, on why he accepts no blame for not stopping his friend from molesting and murdering a little girl

...and in this footage you can see various pedestrians who clearly don't give a shit that somebody near them just collapsed and died.

Raye Penber: I'm dying! Somebody help me!
Random Pedestrian 1: Shut up Emo!
Random Pedestrian 2: We have problems too, you know.

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who stand by and do nothing.

"I thought I heard a ruckus downstairs a minute ago. Do you know what that was all about?"
"No idea. But no need to worry because everything above the 60th floor is safe."
— Two unnamed citizens, overheard on the 61st floor by the people who caused said ruckus, Final Fantasy VII

The great thing about [invading] your species, Dib, is that most of them don't notice.
Tak, Invader Zim

And no one cares. You kick and scream and cry out into the darkness, and no one comes. You rage against the unfathomable injustice and two blocks away some guy watches a baseball game and scratches his balls.
Scientists talk about dark matter, the invisible, mysterious substance that occupies the space between the stars. Dark matter makes up 99.99 percent of the universe, and they don’t know what it is. Well I know. it's apathy. That's the truth of it; pile together everything we know and care about in the universe and it will still be nothing more than a tiny speck in the middle of a vast black ocean of Who Gives A Fuck.
David Wong, John Dies at the End

Three assholes laying into a guy while everyone else watches, and you want to know what's wrong with me?
Kick-Ass, thoroughly averting this trope

"Just followed your example, Shepard. Yell loud enough, and eventually someone will come over to see what all the fuss is about. Not that they'll actually do anything about it."
Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect 3

"It's like a blind spot. It's something you don't see, or can't see, or your brain doesn't let you see because it assumes that it's Somebody. Else's. Problem."
Ford Prefect, Life, the Universe and Everything (though this is actually describing a Perception Filter)

An SEP is something we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem.... The brain just edits it out, it's like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won't see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye.
Ford Prefect, Life, The Universe, and Everything

Some of the things you could learn up a drainpipe at night were surprising. For example, people paid attention to small sounds — the click of a window catch, the clink of a lockpick — more than they did to big sounds, like a brick falling into the street or even (for this was, after all, Ankh-Morpork) a scream.

These were loud sounds which were therefore public sounds, which in turn meant they were everyone’s problem and, therefore, not mine. But small sounds were nearby and suggested such things as stealth betrayed, and so were pressing and personal.

You're someone else's problem / Now I only want you gone
Want you Gone, Portal 2

Sgt. Donovan: Sir, there's been a break-in!
DI Lestrade: Not our division!

Can't someone else do it?
Homer Simpson's slogan when running for Sanitation Commissioner

The death of a disco dancer / Well, it happens a lot 'round here
And if you think Peace / Is a common goal
That goes to show / How little you know
The death of a disco dancer / Well, I'd rather not get involved
I never talk to my neighbour / I'd rather not get involved

Superman: Tell [the drug dealers] I plan to come back every few weeks. I'll [burn their stashes down] again and again until they leave.
Kid: Okay, but you know they're just gonna set up somewhere else, over there—
Superman: Yes, but they won't be here anymore, and that's a step in the right direction. See, in the end, all we can do is look at where we are, at where we're standing, and say we will not allow it here. Over there has to stand for itself, has to speak for itself. Because it's only when over there becomes here that we can stop this once and for all.
Superman #701

Kitty Genovese. I'm sure that was the woman's name. Raped. Tortured. Killed. Here. In New York. Outside her own apartment building. Almost forty neighbours heard screams. Nobody did anything. Nobody called cops. Some of them even watched.
Rorschach, Watchmen

That's your problem. Givin' a fuck when it ain't your turn to give a fuck.
"Bunk" Moreland, The Wire

At minimum, by this point, you should not give a shit. Regular readers of this space should have the mental fortitude to not give two shits... and advanced apathy masters can fail to give anywhere between three and five shits.
Bryan Lambert, You Are Dumb

Seeing my burst of anger, the girl did a complete one-eighty, from awe and surprise to desperate apologies. That didn’t necessarily improve things. “Oh god, I’m sorry. You know, I didn’t think about how it would bother you, saying that. I really did want to help, you know, to do something back then, but-”
“But you didn’t,” I growled at her. “Just like everyone else, you left me in that locker. You didn’t go get help. You didn’t report the people who did it, not even anonymously. You felt bad? You wanted to help? Is that supposed to mean something to me? Is it supposed to be some consolation? You were too lazy or cowardly to step up and do anything about it, but hey, at least your heart was in the right fucking place, huh?”
Worm 11.5

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.
Alice Walker

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke

Too often, people think that evil must be grand, or imposing. They mistake intent for stature. But all too often evil is meager and pathetic. One person willing to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, heedless of the suffering they themselves cause. Such an evil can be worse than all the machinations and schemes of the powerful. Because it is pervasive.
The Shadow, Dynamite's The Shadow #23

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Martin Niemöller

Oh, look outside the window
There's a woman being grabbed
They've dragged her to the bushes
And now she's being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops
And try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun
I'd hate to blow the game

And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Ridin' down the highway
Yes, my back is gettin' stiff
Thirteen cars are piled up
They're hangin' on a cliff
Now maybe we should pull them back
With our towin' chain
But we gotta move and we might get sued
And it looks like it's gonna rain

And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Sweatin' in the ghetto
With the colored and the poor
The rats have joined the babies
Who are sleepin' on the floor
Now wouldn't it be a riot
If they really blew their tops?
But they got too much already
And besides we've got the cops

And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Oh, there's a dirty paper
Using sex to make a sale
The Supreme Court was so upset
They sent him off to jail
Maybe we should help the fiend
And take away his fine
But we're busy reading Playboy
And the Sunday New York Times

And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends

Smokin' marihuana
Is more fun than drinkin' beer
But a friend of ours was captured
And they gave him thirty years
Maybe we should raise our voices
Ask somebody why
But demonstrations are a drag
Besides we're much too high

And I'm sure it wouldn't interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends
Phil Ochs, Outside of a Small Circle of Friends

It is collective security: it is the very existence of the League of Nations. It is the confidence that each State is to place in international treaties. It is the value of promises made to small States that their integrity and their independence shall be respected and ensured. It is the principle of the equality of States on the one hand, or otherwise the obligation laid upon small Powers to accept the bonds of vassalship. In a word, it is international morality that is at stake. Have the signatures appended to a Treaty value only in so far as the signatory Powers have a personal, direct and immediate interest involved?

Apart from the Kingdom of the Lord there is not on this earth any nation that is superior to any other. Should it happen that a strong Government finds it may with impunity destroy a weak people, then the hour strikes for that weak people to appeal to the League of Nations to give its judgment in all freedom. God and history will remember your judgment.
Emperor Haile Selassie, Address to the League of Nations

"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it! Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!"
Ghost Of Christmas Past, A Christmas Carol

Loki: Who knows? It's not my problem.
Skuld: But there could be consequences not just for Midgard, but for Asgard, Alfheim and all the worlds!
Loki: Not. My. Problem.
— A conversation in the game Valkyrie Connect

"For evil bastards to win power all ordinary people have to do is stand aside and keep quiet. There's always a choice."
Trevor Belmont, Castlevania (2017)

Charles: We have to help them.
Logan: We have to keep moving. Someone will come along.
Charles: Someone has come along.

Keeping your distance from something like that was just common sense. I’d go to court, I’d be a witness, but no one could expect anything more of me. Not when thirty other people had behaved in exactly the same way. [...] This wasn’t Kristallnacht. There’d be no embarrassing questions from my grandchildren. No one would ever reproach me.
As if that were the measure of everything.
"Fuck it." I dropped my backpack and ran down the alley.
Greg Egan, "Singleton"

"If you’re thinking 'Come on, that doesn’t seem like that big a problem', congratulations on your white penis."

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death."
Elie Wiesel

Klaus: Whoa! That was crazy! Why isn't anyone reacting to this?
Random guy: Because it doesn't concern me. I'm not in the Gravitron. I'm eating caramel corn, having the time of my life. This is a carnival, after all. Try smiling, asshole! Fuck you!
American Dad!, Season 15 "Shark?!"

Return to Bystander Syndrome. Or not.

Example of: