How awful does an accident halfway around the world have to be to qualify as international news? You’re about to find out.
I’m giving you Fox News’s version of the surveillance footage because they’ve cleaned it up to make it slightly more watchable. The collision has been edited out, as has the unthinkable second collision in which a second truck casually rolls over the baby as she’s lying bleeding in the street. If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the uncensored clip at WaPo. She survived somehow, but there’ll be no happy ending: She’s in a coma as I write this and, apart from some sensitivity in her limbs, is reportedly brain dead.
Recently China has seen prominent cases of bystanders ignoring injured people. In Wuhan last month an elderly man who had fallen in a market died after he suffocated from a nosebleed. While a large crowd had gathered, no one had offered to help, and he was only taken to the hospital by family members who arrived more than an hour later, according to the official China Daily. As my colleague Hannah Beech reported, one explanation is that many Chinese fear the liability they might incur, because Good Samaritans have sometimes seen the people they intend to help turn on them. In one famous 2007 case in Nanjing, a young man who helped a woman who had fallen while getting off a bus was later sued. The woman claimed that he was the one who pushed her, and a court ruled that he was partly responsible.
Other explanations include the so-called “bystander effect,” in which crowds make people less likely to help injured people. Still others discuss a decline of morality that has shadowed China’s dramatic economic reforms. But it is worth noting that such questions have been around since before the People’s Republic was founded. In his 1939 work Peasant Life in China, Chinese anthropologist Fei Xiaotong examined how social obligations were determined by the closeness of relationships. Fei “called this a concentric pattern of social relations with positions measured by how close one stood in relation to the actor,” Linda Wong wrote in her 1998 book Marginalization and Social Welfare in China. “The more distant the location from the centre, the weaker the claim, so that ultimately one did not have any obligation to people unknown to oneself.”
The obvious comparison is to the Kitty Genovese case, but that was a stabbing, not an accident. A bystander who saw that attack and intervened was risking his/her life in doing so. What’s the excuse here?