Dangerous Baggage

Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri

The Shame Of A Moral Crisis

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A chilling article by Lijia Zhang describes an almost alien scenario that is, according to the article, becoming increasingly common in China.

The article describes the tendency of Chinese people to not help other human beings that are in trouble for fear of implicating themselves and possibly facing a ‘Nanjing judge’. The piece explains that there have been a number of cases of people playing the ‘good samaritan’ only to find themselves implicated as the cause of the trouble and ordered to pay costs, fines and presumably a risk of serving time in prison or some form of community service.

The message seems to be that the culture in China is to look out for your own but don’t get involved if it’s not your business.

Now to us highly moral westerners this is an utter disgrace, the idea of ignoring a child who is bleeding to death on your street simply because it is not your child should be harrowingly icy. There is a rather large dialectic, however, that is causing me great pain in leaving it at just that. It is a necessary mental exercise for most people when reading about other cultures to be obliged to attempt to understand them, to attempt to draw parallels with things in your own life and culture that you may be able to gain some insight and understanding.

I suppose that such an act of casual dismissal of life would cause many people to refuse to try to draw parallels as is so often the case when confronted with seeming acts of evil. Perhaps we’re afraid of seeing something of that in ourselves.

It struck me as quite frightening at first when I reflected these acts back onto myself and my own society and I too felt the presumably typical response of repugnancy and denial, but I can’t escape the daunting notion that there could be a rather dark truth lurking within this reflection.

I do walk on by as children die, I carry on with my life as if nothing is happening while children starve, I’ve done nothing to help the victims of the earthquake in Turkey, nothing to help the people rebelling in Yemen or Syria. Nothing to help the the people’s lives devastated the tsunamis in Japan or Thailand. Or the earthquake in Haiti. The list goes on and people over the world continue to live in war torn countries, in strict oppressive regimes and children continue to die of curable diseases. I know about it, I continue to enjoy my life and do very little or nothing to help.

And so do most people I know.

This seems to be the accepted stance of people living in developed western countries. I applaud those that actually fly out to the locations of people in need and administer aid, I really do salute you. For the most of us an ocean, a TV screen and people not speaking our native tongue seems to be enough of a barrier that we can alleviate our guilt by donating £20 per month.

If that’s the way you want to live your life then that’s fine, but do not dare to criticise another culture just because they use a street instead of a TV screen to justify their ignorance.

Another people watching you and your culture may well ask how you can possibly stand by and eat and live well while there is so much horror in the world, horror that you know about and could assist with. They’d be right to ask and we’d be right to hang our communal head in shame. Go ahead, judge the Chinese for this abhorrent behaviour then book a flight out to Uganda for 2 weeks next year and help the Red Cross save some lives.


Written by matthaughton

November 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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