Monday, October 17, 2011

can't believe this is happening

horrifying footage of a 2-year-old girl in china being run over by two separate vehicles and left to die by passersby has stirred outrage throughout the country, with CNN reporting that security footage of the incident has led the nation of 1.3 billion people to do some collective soul-searching.

according to shanghaiist, the two-year-old, who has been identified as yueyue, was run over on thursday outside of a hardware market in foshan in southern china's guangdong province. the driver of the vehicle then backed up over the girl a second time and drove away.

the following video shows more than a dozen passersby walk, ride motorbikes or drive past the young, bleeding girl without stopping to help. they clearly notice the badly injured child, as some motorists swerve to avoid her body. after three people walk past, a different truck runs over the young girl again.

shanghaiist reports that seven grueling minutes passed before a trash collector picked up yeuyue's body and alerted her mother so that she could take the child to the hospital.

... "many people are discussing what they perceive as a loss of morality in chinese society,"
[CNN's enuice yoon] said to erroll barnett. "... some observers have been pointing out that china education system really has failed here, that it's failed to emphasize and reinforce the need to respect human life at a time when 1.3 billion people all clamoring and rushing to climb up the economic and social ladder."

[the telegraph's peter foster wrote] "others blamed china's compensation culture for the apparent show of callousness, recalling a famous 2006 judgment when a good samaritan who helped a woman get to hospital was wrongly ordered to pay her compensation.

"they didn’t ignore the girl, they just didn't dare help her," said one comment among many that said that chinese law had helped create a fear of intervening.

[continue reading ...]

a failure of morality? poor education? economic pressure? a fear of lawsuits? i'm not so sure, especially when so many are ready to paint an enormous country with such a sweeping brush. i'd rather hear from the passersby themselves about why they ignored the little victim, if we ever get the chance to. their stories might shock us, but not, i suspect, in the direction that the media is driving the narrative.

i have my own theory. a few years back, i was discussing one of those awful church shootings that periodically grips the attention of the nation. a friend was having a hard time trying to understand why the victims took so long to react to the crisis. i suggested that most of them probably couldn't even believe what was happening. they probably refused to believe it. i suspect that, in an uncertain or puzzling or unfamiliar situation, most people will not immediately jump to the worst conclusion. especially when, in most cases, we're relieved to find out that it's not. so when those first shots went off, instead of running for the doors, i suspect most people first tried to find a safe explanation for them: "is that a car backfiring?"; "are those firecrackers ... balloons?"; "a television?"; "those can't be gunshots ..."; "i don't want to look like a fool ..." i don't think the reality of the situation dawned on anyone until the screaming started. then it could no longer be denied. who wants to believe that a homicidal maniac is in the building? who wants to put themselves in the middle of that?

so, excepting the inital driver, who was either blind, scared or depravedly indifferent, i believe that we're dealing with a suspension of belief, in a way that helps us avoid getting sucked into a horrible situation that might be unfolding in front of us. and if we don't see panic or alarm coming from anyone else around us, it can only help us in our denial. no one in the video becomes alarmed — a reaction that was probably self-reinforcing: "that's not a child lying injured in the street; it's just a discarded doll, perhaps even a toddler-shaped pile of rags ... besides, no one else seems to be reacting as if it's an injured child ..."

if no one else is panicking, then we can assume that everything is perfectly normal. nothing to see here, folks. we can therefore go about our lives as normal. because if what we most fear is true, then our safe routines are gone. we find ourselves forced to be a victim of horror, or perhaps something worse, a witness to horror, in this case burdened with the responsibility of saving a child's life.

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