It’s amazing how our worldview affects our perceptions. Sharman Yarnell posted a video on Facebook that went viral. It is of a Montreal man being arrested and brutalized in front of his 17 year old daughter – get this – for parking in the wrong place. The daughter called her Mom to beg her to call the police – the people who are supposed to protect her and her Dad. The father could be heard crying out in pain as they handcuffed him. As they prepared to drive away, the daughter is heard saying that they couldn’t just leave her there; because she’s “just a kid”. She was left on the sidewalk, in pajama bottoms and wet hair, not knowing what to do next.
Sharman knows the family. There were posted comments suggesting that the father “must have done something else wrong”. Sharman commented on receiving many private messages. I asked her what the messages were about. She replied “A few because they disagreed with me – others…sent me their stories of similar cases – one involved a six year old! I was horrified by the insensitivity of some of them.”
This “insensitivity” is an example of the ‘Just World Phenomenon’. This is a strong need to think that the world is ‘fair and just’ and that everyone gets what they deserve. The truth is that people with this worldview explain and rationalize events to feel better. They believe that good things happen to good people, and that bad things happen to bad people. The problem is that when something is unfair, they cannot accept the information and they become fearful and angry. It creates a thought that goes something like this: “I am a good person, so therefore, if that person is good and something bad happened to them, maybe something bad can happen to me?” And they fight back this thought by justifying the events and blaming the victim, sometimes with extreme insensitivity. They can be heard to say “I can’t judge without knowing more” instead of offering support.
Let me be clear that Montreal police cannot arrest you for parking illegally; they can only give a ticket. There were suggestions that he was resisting arrest, but again, the only offense he was charged with was parking illegally. Click here to view the video at the bottom of an article. Be aware that the images are disturbing and I found myself holding back tears.
Anyone can be bullied, falsely accused of things or otherwise treated badly. Having bystanders claim that “there must be something else going on – they must deserve this treatment” just re-victimizes the victims. On a personal note, my parents were highly religious and raised us with this faulty worldview. Buying into this type of black and white thinking affected my self-esteem. Not only do I now realize that I have been unfair to others, the flip side is that when I was bullied, or falsely accused, my first thought was to wonder what I had done wrong to deserve this treatment; and I felt guilty when I was victimized. When we live by this false code, we disempower our children because they will feel guilt instead of standing up for themselves and they run the risk of becoming doormats.
So the next time you wonder if someone did something to “deserve” bad treatment, ask yourself if you are being affected by this phenomenon. We must create a more gentle world by challenging that thinking and supporting the victims when they are at their most fragile. Let’s empower the victims with our support instead of empowering the bullies with our silence or accusations.
I would love to hear your opinion on this below! Until next week.XO
“In the beginning there was only a small amount of injustice abroad in the world, but everyone who came afterwards added their portion, always thinking it was very small and unimportant, and look where we have ended up today.”
Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym