Service of Passivity II

July 7th, 2014

Categories: Passivity, Safety, Technology, Uncategorized

There are umpteen examples of lackadaisical behavior by people of all ages, even in instances that might affect others adversely. I won’t stop speaking out in spite of the looks I usually get, [if I notice any reaction at all], for warning pedestrians who are distracted by their texts or too absorbed by their phone conversations to watch out for a speeding car or van heading right for them.

Locked Up

The ladies’ room is outside our office, accessible to tenants on this floor via a keyless lock that opens when you punch a code into a pad. I noticed that I could open the door simply by turning the handle, reported it to the building and we now have a new lock.

I was amazed to learn from someone who worked in another office on the 11th floor that she knew that the lock had been broken for quite a while. So why didn’t anyone notify building staff? We pass by a very receptive person at least twice a day to get in and out of the building. It took me less than a minute to report it on the phone. A friend observed that he thought the lethargy regarding even a potentially dangerous situation, was due to tremendous passivity that overwhelms people, propelling them into inaction. 

Phishing for Dollars

I received a phishing email from a hacker dressed as USAA, a company I use for a whole range of financial services. It took 9 minutes on hold—while I continued to work—to confirm that my suspicions were correct and to get an email address to forward the nasty missive. If everyone is too busy—or passive–to inform a company about thieves who might compromise their clients’ password, social security, credit card and/or bank account numbers, then how can a company stop and penalize hackers?

When you receive an email with all the telltale signs that a friend or colleague’s been hacked, do you let them know or do you figure someone else will?

Why is it so hard for people to take even simple, safe steps to fix or right a wrong? Are we harried and too busy? Do we think it’s up to someone else to handle? Have you noticed other examples of passivity?






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4 Responses to “Service of Passivity II”

  1. Simon Carr Said:

    The British, with a population ten to twenty times smaller, dominated the Indian subcontinent for almost two centuries. However, they never succeeded in subjugating the far more primitive Afghanistan. Why? I think the answer lies to a large part in the cultures of the diverse populations in the region. The Afghans are anything but passive.

    With the advent in this country in 1980 of a well-marketed culture of big is better, greed is good, buy. buy, buy and to Hell with the little guy, passivity became the rule of the day for all but the rich and powerful. The rapidly changing cultural makeup of its population, especially that of the people on top, only speeded up the process.

    Today, as is the the case with whistle blowers, who are invariably the big losers when they speak out against injustice and corruption, you are better off being passive if you see something wrong, because if you do speak up, the chances are you’ll be the one punished.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I am the exception that proves the rule regarding speaking up without wealth and power. I am quite different from either of my parents who were outspoken and seemed at ease being so. I often prefer to be quiet, yet there are times I must ring an alarm as uncomfortable as I might feel, especially if danger is concerned.

    I have learned to pick my battles because I too often came across the no good deed goes unpunished scenario. When I remain silent I miss bullets and feel relief though at times I’m not proud of my decision.

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    It is tedious to recount the number of times I just pick up a phone to report inconveniences or safety issues in my large urban office building. People encounter backed up toilets, ladies’ room doors that either won’t lock or won’t open, and complain, but don’t make reports. However, these are minor items.

    More strange, especially given Boston’s recent history, was that in a nearly empty theater with 15 minutes until showtime, the staff seemed bewildered or inconvenienced when I reported an unaccompanied carry-on bag stashed in an empty seat. They thought it might belong to a given employee. Only when I firmly, but pleasantly, insisted that it would be more appropriate to establish ownership, did they lackadaisically relay questions to one another until their instinct was confirmed. The movie showing was fairly politically and religiously charged, but it did not seem to occur to anyone that there might be concerns for security. It seems that our focus on ourselves extends to ignoring the realities of recent experience.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    That’s both nuts and irresponsible. I am amazed, when I mention something that was widely covered on the news and the person I’m speaking with hasn’t heard about it, but this couldn’t be the case with these movie staffers. If any of those employees lived in the Boston area during the Boston Marathon bombing two years ago, they couldn’t have missed it or the circumstances. One wonders about the person who can leave a business in the hands of such people.

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