Wednesday, July 23, 2008

People, eh!

Something happened on my train carriage coming into work this morning which set me thinking.

The carriage was crowded as you would expect for the morning peak when a young Asian woman, probably in her early twenties, cried out in some distress and collapsed. Somebody pushed the alarm button and the train stopped at Croxton station.

Passengers carried her semi-conscious onto the platform and put her in the recovery position, while the train driver called an ambulance. I took my overcoat off so she could use it as a pillow but somebody else placed their handbag under the young woman’s head. Somebody offered her their water bottle; somebody checked her pulse while another held her hand until the ambulance came.

The question is, why did we do all these things for a complete stranger? The ambulance was on its way, we could have, in all conscience, left her on the platform yet we all understood such a thing would be unthinkable.

It was an ordinary train carriage; old, young, middle aged, blue collar, white collar passengers. Would we have behaved any differently if we lived in a society where death and disease were common? Or is the principle of empathy universal in all human societies?

And then you read something like this.

It’s got me buggered.


Perseus said...

I suggest to you that the reason you helped out is because you are a decent person with most, if not all your faculties intact.

Further, I imagine that a baby-killer lacks such faculty.

Also, the fact it was peak-hour commute time could contribute. Workers. Soberly going to work. Maybe at 11pm on a Saturday night the passengers would think, "Oh, she's just drunk/high".

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Maybe at 11pm on a Saturday night the passengers would think, "Oh, she's just drunk/high".

Very good point.

Anonymous said...

Such a disgusting display of human empathy, Ramon. These days it's de rigeur to shuffle uncomfortably, look away, and give the woman some privacy to suffer and die.

Like these people in Italy.

Puss In Boots said...

I would also imagine the young woman who killed her baby might have been somewhat desperate - perhaps she didn't want the child but had been refused an abortion, or whatever. Perhaps she had simply run out of choices.

I'm not condoning her behaviour, but I'm not sure the two situations can be compared.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Puss, I suppose my point was that people are capable of an infinite range of responses.

squib said...

I agree with Puss, I don't think they are comparable. I guess the incident on the train has got something to do with basic survival in that humans needed to cooperate and help one another in order to survive

One of our more redeeming features to be sure but mostly I think we are pretty dreadful and as you said Ramon if the context was different, she could have easily been mugged and left on the platform. A lawless New Orleans comes to mind

Puss In Boots said...

Ah, I see. As you were then. Hehe.

Louche said...

Good on your Ramon. I recall the story of a prominant Aboriginal woman who had passed out in the street due to diabetes complications and no-one helped as they throught she was just another drunk.

I guess when things happen on a train you can't exactly keep on walking by.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Squid, I think a lot of those "anarchy in New Orleans" stories were exaggerated.

The question is whether our natural default condition is co-operation or competition or even if there is such a thing as a "natural default condition".

Is is Thomas Hobbes or John Locke?

squib said...

Blowed if I know, Ramon. I completely contradicted myself several times just now

Perseus said...

I'm a classicist. I think 'will' (in it's Nietzschean sense - as in, 'will' being fluid and dependant on a shitload of stimuli ranging from instinct to gender to environment to intellectualism) defeats 'natural default condition' everytime, just like 'paper' beats 'rock'.

'Sex' is 'scissors' though.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

How would Nietzsche explain what happened on the train, then?

Stubbadub said...

Perhaps this story will serve as a better counterpoint to Ramon's post.

My boss's partner very recently kept a man alive for 20 minutes after he had a heart attack in a gym attached to her workplace. Apparently, there were many people, who also had senior first aid training, who stood around and watched with hands in pocket while she worked on him. 20 minutes is a long time when you are resuscitating someone and she was not impressed that no one offered to take over or help her in any way.

Perseus said...

"How would Nietzsche explain what happened on the train, then?"

Maybe he would say that because of who you are and what you have become you acted in a certain way, and because of the way other people are they reacted in their own way.

I'm sure he would have approved of your actions though, because in the absence of God, we must become our own Ubermensch, and when you go to bed tonight you'll know that your will is stronger than that of the person who stepped over the sick woman.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Cool. I've always wanted to be an Ubermensch.

Doesn't that rather imply though that there is no universal moral code and that it's up to each individual?

Perseus said...

Not really, because the Universal Moral Code is to be strong, to be super, to find the balance between Apollo and Dionysus... it's just that we allow ourselves to be weakened by too many trivial things, like Russians and hookers (Nietzsche got syph from a hooker), or in my case, John Wayne westerns and a bag of Kettle Chilli Chips.

For more information, please consult the Collected Works of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Ah, so the people on the beach in italy could considered to be untermensch, then?

Fad MD said...

we must become our own Ubermensch

I always get confused and my Biggles collection can't help me. Does that outrank a St├╝rmoberfuhrer?

shitbmxrider said...

ya know whats got me fucked?

I didn't even know there was a suburb in Melbourne called Croxton

patchouligirl said...

I hope that the majority of people would be caring and compassionate but the older I get the more I realise how many people in the world can't even help themselves, let alone anyone else. For what its worth I've done my St John ambulance course and hope that if I ever needed to I could resusitate someone. Its 2 breaths to 30 compressions, I remember the compressions went to the beat of Lenny Kravitz "are you gonna go my way" ( a nurse told me she uses 'row row row your boat') in order to keep correct time. Have a heart attack in my presence at your own risk.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I must remember that, Patchouli.

Croxton is one of those tiny sub-suburbs nobody has ever heard of, like Westgarth or Briar Hill.