Monthly Archives: June 2011

No one among us?

Here’s how a shocking story goes..

An apparently suicidal man waded into San Francisco Bay on Monday, stood up to his neck, and waited. As the man drowned, police, fire crews, and others watched idly from the shore.

ifty-year-old Raymond Zack spent nearly an hour in the water before drowning. A crowd of about 75 people, in addition to first responders, watched from the beach in Alameda across the bay from San Francisco as Zack inched farther and farther away, sometimes glancing back. “The next thing he was floating face down.”

This story struck me as an unbelievable and very sad in number of ways.   It speaks about many quite disquisting traits that one thinks are relics of the past, but one has to accept as inherently human traits.

On an individual level we draw a strict line between us and them.   One has hard time imagining that anyone of these people if asked the day before “What would you do if you saw a man drowning, would you put your life on the line to save them”   Surely at least half of the people would say “Yes”  and yet the next day when the moment came one can imagine they stood around and waited for someone else would act, but in reality no one did.  Those that were in best position and training justified their inaction wrapped  up by politics and rules, and orders from above.

What does that remind one of?   We were only following orders!.  Wasn’t that and the collective failure of human consciousness something we’ve heard before.  Both were justifications for both action and more importantly guilt of inaction. When one thinks about this we realize that this is not so uncommon.  There have been social studies done on behavior of crowds.  Where each individual expects the others to take action, and they themselves are paralyzed.   How is it that we pride ourselves in the idea that we live in the country of freedom and individuality, and yet not one among us heard their voice of consciousness call out clearly that watching someone slowly die is wrong and we must act upon it? Apparently individual expression is great when it serves us such as picking out an outfit or choosing among 40 brands of cereal, but not so much  when it calls on us to make a moral decision and step away from the crowd while taking a personal risk and possible sacrifice. I  struck me as somehow remarkable that 75 people stood by and did nothing to save this man.  I simply cannot imagine not making a reasonable effort to save someone.

Are we not human being for sake?   How do you stand by and watch another die?  Would you stand there if it was your son? Your wife? So how can you stand there just because he is a stranger?