Indifference? What indifference?

Posted on 19 October 2011

Newsflash: Ignoring strangers in need is nothing new, and the case of the Chinese toddler certainly won’t be the last.

By Terence Lee

Yes, the incident where a Chinese toddler was ran over twice by vehicles, bathed in her own pool of blood, and later on blatantly ignored by passer-bys was cruel and heart wrenching.

Yes, people were upset and the Chinese became painfully aware of their own society’s degradation, with many echoing that the country is descending down a path of self-destructive moral decay.

But once you get past the initial outrage and self-perpetuating media frenzy, you’ll start to see the incident for what it is.

Indifference is nothing new.

Let me take you back one year ago, to New York City, where a man laid down on the floor for a good one hour after being stabbed. People walked by, oblivious to him, and one guy even took a picture. He died in the end.

His name was Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, a homeless 31-year-old immigrant. But this dude is no vagrant, and certainly no drunkard — he was a hero, in fact.

He got into an altercation after coming to a rescue of a lady who was being robbed.

“He did what you’re supposed to do, and we let the person, who did what he was supposed to do, die,” said John Darley, a professor of psychology at Princeton University.

So, all these stupid Americans scolding “FUCK YOU CHINA” on YouTube need to look at their own backyard.

There’s more, this time in Paris. Let me take you back to 2006, when French Jew Ilan Halimi was tortured to death by a group of Islamic extremists who recited the Quran while inflicting pain on him.

While the cruelty and racism certainly was front and center, apathy came into the picture too.

The doorman who rented the apartment to the abductors knew what was happening but did nothing. Many of the neighbors heard screams but did nothing.

“When you live here, you think about yourself and only about yourself,” one of them was quoted as saying.

Indifference is as old as civilization itself. The Bible, for instance, contains the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Here’s the truncated version:

A dude was robbed and stripped naked, then left to die by the roadside. A pastor saw him lying there but pretended not to see him and even crossed over to the other side of the road.

Next, an evangelist walked past, and while he prayed for the dying man, did nothing to help him.

Finally, a Muslim dude saw him, took pity, and brought the dying man to the hospital.

Now think: Why would the Bible contain such a parable if indifference wasn’t a problem then?

So, to those who are asking how could someone not do anything to help poor Yue Yue who was bleeding to death, here’s my jaded, cynical answer: We’ve been ignoring people since the dawn of history, so stop acting surprised.

Alive, but in critical condition. Photo: China Daily

And I don’t think society is necessarily descending into a bog of moral depravity; rather, we live in the age of online media where viral news spreads around at lightning speed. Bad stuff like these are bound to get A LOT of attention.

After all, the media has an affinity for counting bodies, better if they’re dead. It drives up pageviews and ad revenue.

What the Yue Yue incident should do though is to remind us to be better people. In fact, I was quite relieved that people are actually upset over it.

It shows that, at the very least, we’re not indifferent about indifference.

This post was written by:

- who has written 81 posts on New Nation.

Terence is an online media nut that is obsessed with writing and publishing on the Internet. Recently, he took up photography to expand his repertoire, and hopes to learn videography soon. He has worked in both online and print publications such as The Straits Times, Today, Mind Your Body, The Online Citizen, and Funkygrad. He is currently the assistant editor with SGEntrepreneurs, a website that covers entrepreneurship in Singapore and Asia. Terence can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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  • Kiezin Teng

    I agree that it won’t be the last. We need to however draw certain distinction with the Paris incident. That is reminiscent of the even earlier incident in USA where everyone heard gunshots and saw a girl being brutally raped and killed. No one called the police because everyone thought everyone else did, and we can term this as the “bystander effect” which is a well research psychological behaviour.

    With regards to the New York incident, if someone saw the stabbing and walked off, then we can equate it to the China incident because the first few passer-bys witnessed the incident. If however he was lying there with nary of a obvious wound, then we should reconsider before putting this forth as a parallel incident

  • Edmund

    Samaritans aren’t Muslims, but your point is taken.

    • Terence Lee

      it’s a modern remake of the parable 😉

  • Sp

    Did you just, in effect, say “stop acting surprised [by indifference] but I’m glad you’re upset”? Indifference might not be something new, but people do assume that kindness still exist. Maybe that’s why they’re surprised and upset. Your contradictory self-satisfied article is part of the media frenzy too.

    • Terence Lee

      i’m sayin’ after you get upset, cool down. and yeah, i don’t deny that i’m part of the media machine. it still doesn’t stop me from poking fun at myself.

  • Alden

    Nice post Terrance – alden