Sunday, 22 September 2013

When is it Right to Interfere?

Waiting for the taxi to  take me to church this morning, sitting on the arm of a chair in the front window (I know, yet another bad habit), I found myself watching that least favourite of mine, a spider in the hibiscus making a very ornate web.

Despite myself, I found myself admiring the painstaking work going in to the web, and also the patience of this ghastly unfavourite creature.

Quite without any warning a huge bumble bee suddenly got caught and without a second's thought I leapt out of the house, whizzed my hands round and round the captured creature which was hanging helplessly by now and as it dropped to a lower branch of the shrub I pulled away a further thread.

Back in the house I could no longer see the bee but the spider was steadily working on its repairs, ready for the next unfortunate victim and I wondered guiltily if a, I had any right to interfere, b, whether the bee had survived, and last but not least, just how far human intervention should go.

Take this a step further and we are faced with situations like the one reported last week of the poor starved and tortured little boy who died so tragically at the hands of his own mother.

"Unthinkable", "How could anyone do that to a small helpless soul"  "Why didn't someone do something"?
Well the failures of all the individuals concerned, school, social workers, G. P. , are well documented and not for the first time, but this begs the question, why?

Surely not all those listed who saw various aspects of this child's ill-treatment, were afraid to interfere, somehow assuming that 'someone else' would report what they saw.

Is there then a culture of 'minding ones own business', to the exclusion of everything and everyone else?

How do journalists and photographers who go to film and record accidents, atrocities, violence on any scale, somehow contrive to reflect what is happening without becoming involved?

When does intervention become interference and what is it that prevents good, normal, kindly people from taking that step over the line.  Is it fear, indifference (surely not), embarrassment, I don't know, but there are serious questions here.  Does anyone have answers?


  1. and, unfortunately, it is the same all over the world.

    1. I'm sure you're right Susan, but I wish you weren't.

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

    1. Makes you wonder how you'd define "good men" doesn't it?

  3. So often our reactions can be along the lines of 'somebody should do something' without considering whether that somebody should be me. The desire for a quiet life and fear of getting involved in something that could turn nasty often kicks in.

    1. Absolutely agree, but how do we change that?

  4. Hopefully the next thing caught in the web was a fly. A world without spiders would have a lot more nasty insects in it.

    Turning to your more serious questions, the answer is probably all three reasons for non-intervention, plus others. Even the most well motivated intervener isn't always welcomed and can end up in danger in some circumstances. It's hard one, Ray.....

  5. I could never share your enthusiasm for spiders Perpetua, least of all at this time of the year.....shudder!
    On the main theme, I still wonder whether we have lost the ability to leap in to the rescue regardless of the danger and indeed whether we ought to do so.
    I still feel that some well-intentioned rescue attempts are really unwarranted interference. Even those we perceive as victims may have their own agendas.

  6. I'm afraid that I am one of life's interferes Ray. Embarrassment does play a part in people holding back but I am lacking in that department.
    I put people's needs above the need to not interfere.....this gets me in trouble fairly requently but I have to live with myself!

  7. As long as interfering does some good in the end and the outcome is better than it would have been had you not interfered, then I am totally in favour.
    The only thing that worries me is the old "Fools rushing in where Angels fear to tread" syndrome.
    Intervention in an obviously life-threatening situation is another matter and would take huge courage.
    I don't think anyone who has read your blog over the past 18 months or so could possibly doubt your courage.
    Keep on keeping on.

  8. Thank you Ray.... The main thing I think is not to be judgmental....