You may have heard the news this week about a toddler in southern China who was run over by a small van (twice) and left unattended in the road while at least 18 people walked by without offering any assistance. The entire incident, from the girl first being run over to the arrival of a scrap collector who finally carries her out of the street was captured by security cameras and, as you can imagine has caused quite an uproar here in China.The video is all over the internet, but I will not link to it here; it's too disturbing.
Chinese social media exploded with discussions about how such a thing could happen. Some say it is just another example of the breakdown of morality in a modern China that only values money. Others lay the blame at recent cases where bystanders have helped someone in need, only to be accused of causing the injury in the first place and thus being held financially responsible by the court. In other words, to help might bring the helper and his/her family mafan ("trouble"), both legally and financially.
Someone online started a "Stop the Cold-heartedness" campaign.
I also think that the insider/outsider mentality that I wrote about in my previous post plays a part in situations like these, which are actually common in China. The difference here is that it was filmed for the entire world to see.
Interestingly, in all of the articles and analyses that I have read about this, the only journalist who's mentioned this aspect is Austin Ramzy, of Time who writes in a piece titled Amid Anger Over Grisly Collision, China recognizes a Humble Hero:
"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."
I don't know you, therefore you aren't.
Some are calling for the establishment of "Good Samaritan" laws to prevent these types of incidents. I suspect that the cultural context of the Good Samaritan story was similar to China, in that there were clear distinctions between insiders and outsiders, Jews and Samaritans, and this is exactly why the story must have been so radical to those listening.
May we all (Chinese and foreigners) be more like the Good Samaritan, challenging cultural conventions and saying "God knows you, therefore you are."
Three more good articles:
Would a Good Samaritan Law in China have Helped Little Girl (Josh Chin, China Real Time Report)
A note on Chen Xianmei, China's most famous "trash collector." (Adam Minter, Shanghai Scrap)
Shocking Foshon Incident Reveals an upspoken illness at China's core (Yajun Zhang, The Guardian)