GuyInTaiwan wrote:I'm glad someone finally brought up the bystander effect. I watched something a few years ago where someone (Michael Moore?) set up a couple of experiments in major English speaking cities in English speaking countries and found people to be just as unlikely to get involved.
Also, the notion that this kind of thing happens in highly concentrated areas in Western cities doesn't match my experiences. Once, when I was living and working in London, I was walking from a school to White City Underground Station. It was about 3:30pm. From a long distance away, I could see a group of about a dozen kids really roughing up a couple of other kids. As it was near the Tube station, there were lots and lots of people in suits (it's also near the BBC offices of all places!) walking past. No one stopped to help the kids being bullied. When I got close, I tried to intervene, but was then threatened and chased off by the dozen or so teenagers doing the roughing up. A group of adults could easily have dealt with the little ruffians, but they chose not to (though they probably complained later to someone about kids these days being little shits, having no respect, etc.). On a daily basis in London, even (especially!) on public transportation, I witnessed tons and tons of really anti-social activities. I experienced them every day in my job. Whenever I tried to deal with any situations, I would find myself on the receiving end. London, as a society, was every bit as callous and dysfunctional as China sounds, and the recent riots have certainly shown that. Is Australia, where I am from, better? Probably, I'd say, but I wouldn't like to have to put money on it because I could end up losing my money.
Also, I've written before about how my wife (then girlfriend) and I intervened in a pretty bad situation (that had obviously been going on for some time before we were driving past and I saw it) on the main street of Sanxia where a guy threw his girlfriend around, then tried to drive off with her hanging out his window while a crowd of maybe one or two hundred people looked on. When the police arrived, he openly tried to bribe them and wasn't arrested. My wife gave the police her contact details as a witness and was never contacted.
Yes, you see antisocial behaviour all the time in the UK, and not just in the big cities either- although they are worse. It's the fear of getting set upon or knifed that prevents people from intervening. Having said that, if I saw a situation where someone was clearly being harassed or attacked, rather than a gang fight where everyone is equally responsible, I would find it difficult not to intervene. Luckily I never have, or I probably would have ended up dead by now.
I remember a good few years back, a woman was dragged across six lanes of traffic in central London, then assaulted and raped in Regents park, all in broad daylight. The drivers did nothing. Maybe they were in a rush to a business meeting or on the way home. There was rightly a big fuss about it in the media, but actually it didn't surprise me because that is what British people are like- don't like to get involved with other people's business.
Once on the Tube I was near set up by a bloke because over an armrest (he wanted the whole armrest and didn't want to share). He got up, all 6ft 3 of him, and was threatening to hit me. Somehow I managed to diffuse the situation; but I doubt that if he had attacked me that anyone would have helped.
But surely this is a different phenomenon we are talking about here ? I am pretty sure that if a little kid, or anyone, was mown down in the street in the UK, passers buy would stop straight away to help, at least to move her out of danger and call the emergency services.
It's actually of credit to the Chinese that this has caused such a big uproar. The two drivers have been arrested, well that's fine, as long as they are the right drivers and not just random people selected to take responsibility and save the government face, as seems to happen in China. But it will be interesting to see if there are any repercussions at a higher level, such a government information broadcasts on TV about civil duties. There are not many good things about living in authoritarian states, but one of them is that people do what the government tells them to.
The Chinese government has proved that it doesn't put much value on an individual human life, nor does it really care about how China is perceived abroad. Any change is going to come within and when the leadership feels like changing- but social change can be effected in China more more easily that in a free country.