I’ve often wondered why people don’t seem to care about the things they hear and see in the news. Nobody seems to be all that interested in questions dealing what’s right and what’s wrong or why we’re here. Hockey, the Academy Awards and American Idol all seem to be more important and worth talking about.
A few days ago I came across a disturbing article in the National Post. The article reported that a woman in Calgary was hit by two cars and dragged along the road. Only one person came to her aid as she lay dying;”Calgary was stunned when 56-year-old Wong Shuk Yee was struck by a car in the northwest Calgary suburbs on Wednesday. The driver drove off, the following two cars swerved around her body and continued on, and then Ms. Wong was hit by a second car that dragged her a short ways and then also continued on. Ms. Yee died at the scene, comforted only by Tonja Beach, a mother of four who lived nearby. No other cars pulled over . . .”
How does this happen? The reporter who interviewed Ms. Beach, mentioned the ‘bystander syndrome’; “where if somebody sees something bad happening to a human being in a crowd, they’re actually less likely to call for help because they assume someone else is taking care of it. Do you think that could have happened?” Ms. Beach replied; “I don’t know. . . . People just don’t care anymore. They’re too busy in their own lives to worry about anybody else. They just don’t want to get involved.” Bystander Syndrome adds up to a much bigger problem when we consider how it works its way into society.
Moral indifference is bystander syndrome taken to its logical conclusion in a society. Somehow we have all become ‘bystanders’ in a culture that pushes entertainment over education, consumption over creativity and opinion over conviction. It’s not that any person makes a conscious decision to allow bad things to happen and evil to go unchecked. Rather people don’t want to ‘get involved’. It’s not that people don’t figure what’s right or wrong. Rather people prefer to keep their conclusions to themselves thereby avoiding the risk of their actions and attitudes being called into question. We still know right from wrong but these concepts figure less and less into our daily calculations. Taking a stand makes you a target – best to keep moving in any direction morally and literally in an uncertain world.
Moral indifference is more the absence of a consistent tendency to do what is right than it is premeditated callousness. That is what makes it unpredictable on an individual basis. Individuals are as capable of great acts of selflessness and courage as they are of apathy and cowardice. However groups tend to default to the lowest common denominator and its members become bystanders or in extreme cases -mobs. This is what happens when a society chooses to abandon sound teaching like the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). We leave ourselves open to moral and social confusion in situations where a clear need for right action exists. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).
Christina Hoff Sommers, professor of philosophy at Clark University, and W. H. Brady Fellow at American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C. sum up our social dilemma; “Without a population educated to be civil, considerate, and respectful of one another, what will we end up with? Not much. For as long as philosophers and theologians have written about ethics, they have stressed the moral basics. We live in a moral environment. We must respect and protect it. We must acquaint our children with it. We must make them aware it is precious and fragile.”
Today, we are living in a world where for several generations children have not been taught Christian values. Indeed the Bible is being censured in many of our public schools. Sadly far too many people seem indifferent to the concern about how abandoning our faith and traditions will change our social reality. But then again nobody expects to get hit by a car while crossing the street. Why would anybody think that they might fall victim to moral indifference?