The Guardian had a very sad article today about people on a London bus doing nothing to help a stabbing victim...they just watched or walked away...I understand the shock or fear that you might get hurt, but after the threat is gone and a man lies bleeding his life out on the floor, what is it that makes you not want to get involved?
We slow down on the highway to stare at accidents, we tune in to news about disasters and watch like addicts but how often do we actually shift from voyeurs relishing the adrenalin of these horrible scenes to actually helping those in need?
How many of the people who witnessed the bus stabbing added the experience to their list of 'stories to tell'...how many were honest in these stories about how they just slinked away and left a man bleeding in the arms of the only young lady tending to him who was asking for their help?
If we can walk away from people who are obviously in need of help while someone looks us in the eye and asks for it...how easy is it for us to turn our backs on people who don't know we are watching? People in a newspaper headline, people on the news people beyond the dark curtained windows we are staring from...
One of the most famous instances of witnesses doing nothing to help a victim is the Kitty Genovese case in 1964...38 people witnessed Genovese get raped and murdered over a half hour to 45 minute period of time and did nothing to intervene...most of the witnesses did not see the entire attack which happened later in her apartment, but many had seen the initial attack in the street in front of her building in NYC... the case was hyped in the media at the time and it was famous for furthering the study of the 'bystander effect/apathy' where the more witnesses there are to a crime, the less likely individuals are to do anything....
One of my favourite comic books/graphic novels is The Watchmen, By Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons...In it, one of the characters called Rorschach is transformed by the news about Kitty Genovese into a masked vigilante/superhero, avenging powerless victims...but his version of justice is absolute..there are no grey areas...wrongdoing is punished with no mercy...which makes him a mirror image of his opposites, the criminals...but his code comes from an outrage at the crimes people commit and the unwillingness of anyone to do anything to help the victims...
"This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces, It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It's us. Only us."
Rorschach, p.26 Chap VI, The Watchmen