A couple of days ago a video was released on a Chinese news channel. Recorded by a street camera, the video shows a two year old girl, Yue Yue, being run over by one and then another vehicle at a hardware market in the industrial district of Foshan. In the following nine minutes eighteen people witnessed her bleeding on the road but not one gave her more than a cursory glance. Finally, an older woman carrying recycling sees the little girl. She is the first out of nineteen people not only to act but to appear to care at all.
In the video, the 58 year old scrap metal collector, Chen Xienmei, drops her work immediately upon seeing Yue Yue. She demonstrates a basic human instinct that is expected of any capable person regardless of age, socio-economic status, gender, or race. To behave any differently is incomprehensible to so many of us but the chilling reality is that eighteen onlookers simply could not be bothered to step in.
Some people attribute the choices of those eighteen witnesses to the bystander effect.
(def.) A social-psychological phenomenon in which individuals fail to offer help to the victim of an emergency situation when there are other bystanders present
This doesn’t seem to be a very good explanation.
The bystander effect claims that individuals are less inclined to intervene in emergencies if other witnesses are present. This wasn’t the case here because the eighteen onlookers encountered the situation separately. Accordingly, the explanations behind the bystander effect, social influence and diffusion of responsibility¹, do not apply.
What then could even begin to explain the reactions of the eyewitnesses? Perhaps they believed it was a hoax staged by street thieves. Maybe they were afraid of being blamed for what happened if they called attention to the girl. It’s even conceivable that the bystanders doubted their ability to help. Whichever the reason, the onlookers were more concerned with their respective wellbeing than that of a hurt child.
It is possible that this was an isolated incident and not at all representative of the people in the city. However, eighteen is simply too great a number for a coincidence. Still, instead of simply judging their actions, those who condemn these bystanders should try and understand the causes that brought about their choices. How difficult must the lives of those onlookers be that they must live by such selfish values? What can the Chinese government or the international community do to create changes that will transform such distressing perspectives?
This tragedy provokes strong feelings for all those who have heard the story. By putting aside hostile opinions for insightful responses, we can help by promoting kindness to those who have forgotten it and by reflecting our belief in humanity to those who have the power to advance it.
¹Social Influence – E.g. Observing the reactions of other witnesses to gauge what is accepted behaviour – since everyone is doing that (doing nothing), nobody does anything
¹Diffusion of Responsibility – E.g. Everyone is expecting somebody else to intervene so the feeling of responsibility is diffused and no one takes action.
*Bystander Effect – Also known as the Genovese Syndrome from the case of Kitty Genovese
It’s a double rainbow! It’s a herd of rabid goats! It’s… it’s a RAVE?!
Stretching 8,850 kilometres across arid deserts, lush highlands and wild meadows, the Great Wall of China is an architectural wonder of the world. 2000 years ago, the Wall served as a form of defensive fortification against foreign invaders. Today, it is a monument to the unity of the Chinese people and Chinese history…as well as an exotic rave venue.
For over six years, The Great Wall of China has played host to numerous rave parties. This annual summer event is highly anticipated by a select group of Chinese and foreigners and is even attended by renowned local DJs. Word is that these parties deserve every scrap of hype that surrounds them.
Alcohol, hallucinogens, boys, girls, dancing, suspended melodies and booming beats, and thousands of years of history underfoot. Combine all that with the thrill of being a part of something wildly morally indecent and what emerges is an experience that is matchless in scale. Together, these elements create an undeniable allure, an allure that adds to the state of abstraction ravers crave.
In 2006, China’s cabinet placed a ban on “inappropriate stunts” to parts of the Great Wall that are in disrepair. However, regulations targeting raves on the Wall are rarely enforced, and with good reason. If ravers aren’t damaging the Wall in their pleasure seeking exploits, then why shouldn’t they be allowed to drink and roll and have fun?
The opposition can be easily understood by those who know well the history of the Great Wall of China. Built by hundreds of thousands of soldiers, convicted criminals, and common people, the Great Wall as we know it today was constructed over a period of several hundred years. This architectural feat is lined with thousands of sacrificed bodies and that warrants a certain kind of respect.
For a wall that spans up to 30 feet at its widest points, the line between glamour and disregard is pretty thin.
Terraced rice paddies, careening rickshaws, and the odd gambolling panda aren’t exactly images that turn up when we think of China today. In fact, this concept is more or less a distant memory by 2011.
Shanghai’s World Financial Center, also known as the “Beer Opener” (few other things come to mind once you see it) is the third tallest building in the world and built amidst a sparkling economic hub. Beijing, home to the 2008 Summer Olympics, has in recent years emerged with top brand name shop-towns like Solana, luxury boutique-style hotels like The Opposite House, and a state-of-the-art national stadium – all a radical change from the past.
At the same time, in the Western world, the thought of China is still often associated with a feeling of mystique. Impressions of oriental traditions, stories of the imperial courts, and visions of age-old historical monuments all interweave our notion of modern China. These are not misrepresented beliefs as most of China IS highly agricultural, much of its historical landmarks have been preserved with an air of ancient authenticity, and many Chinese people’s lives DO revolve around deeply-rooted edicts.