Friday, June 06, 2008

Are we any less humane?

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CNN has a story of a 71yo man in HARTFORD, Connecticut being knocked down by a car and people seemingly not attending to him. So was the story. Are we really so inhumane? Looking at the issue, it appears that police have blown the issue out of proportion. Lets consider the context:
1. Four people called '911' within one minute of the hit & run. Anymore calls could have just delayed others getting their emergency call attended to. Maybe we have a nice balance.
2. Hit & runs are not a new phenomena, its just that this one had bad video to reaffirm the point
3. There were pedestrians standing around, seemingly indifferent to the victims needs, or maybe they didn't know what to do, and were waiting for someone who could help to step up. Its understandable that people who seem helpless would be turning away from the victim and calling out 'anyone a doctor'.

Its worth considering what contributes to inhumanity. I think the following factors would give a victim of an accident less likelihood of being attended to.
1. A victim lived in a collectivist state where each individual was worth less than the state
2. The victim is responsible, ie. People rationalise that this incident occurred because of the victim. ie. By behaving carelessly or arrogantly. True or rationalisation
3. Bystanders could not relate to the values of the victim, ie. They had not been involved in an accident before, they were young and they had no old living relatives, etc.
4. The bystanders have a collectivist/nationalist identity, thus they are inclined to dismiss the needs of others
5. Their were other people around so each bystander felt less responsible, whether because they were less close so or didn't see it happen. People might be inclined to move away to diminish their sense of responsibility, maybe at the same time asking 'Anyone a doctor', and then stopping.
6. There was evidence to suggest that other bystanders were taking action, so we feel less need to participate
7. Bystanders might feel threatened if they attended to the victim, i.e. They dont want to place their own lives at risk.
8. Bystanders have more pressing personal issues so they are inclined to dismiss the needs of others. If own own lives are tough we are less inclined to invest in the lives of others.
9. Bystanders felt powerless to help because they had never been placed in his situation

So when we consider these factors in the context of this incident, it is apparent that some of these factors are valid.
1. This incident occurred in a poor neighbourhood where people are struggling with higher petrol prices, food costs, and a weaker outlook.
2. The US has one of the strongest traditions of individual rights, but fascism is slowly increasing, so people feel more apathetic and passive than ever
3. There were a lot of people around, so clearly people were reticent to act first, and seeing others act, they were more likely to just watch then obstruct or help those taking action.
4. Bystanders would have rationalised that they could do nothing because they had no medical training. What they could have done is at least controlled the traffic.

Is it any different in other countries? I was on a train in Japan in a half-full carriage. There was a drunken man on the train. The train came to a stop suddenly, and this man lost balance or consciousness. His head hit the floor like a billard ball - very hard. People just stood looking at him for minutes wondering what to do. Mostly people don't see a responsibility and they call the train conductor. The train waited for 20 minutes for help to arrive.
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Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
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