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Oct. 27, 2011

The forgotten child

by Janvi Raichura, Online News Editor
Last Friday, Wang Yue, a two-year-old Chinese girl was killed after two cars hit her. According to officials at Guangzhou Military Hospital, Yue died at 12:32 a.m. as 18 bystanders observed the tragedy but did nothing. Officials said it might have been possible to save her life if the spectators had brought her to the hospital earlier.

Two-year-old Wang Yue was run over by two cars and passed by 18 people before she was pulled to safety. Courtesy of The Guardian
Two-year-old Wang Yue was run over by two cars and passed by 18 people before she was pulled to safety.
Yue was hit when she strayed into the middle of the street while her mother was shopping. Video surveillance footage shows that numerous people walked by as Yue remained splayed in the middle of the road injured and bleeding. One passerby simply stared at Yue as he walked by. It wasn't until second vehicle hit her that a someone finally pulled her to safety.

The surveillance video has gone viral and has sparked global outrage across the globe, questioning the state of Chinese society. This has also ignited the "Stop Apathy" campaign on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

I am greatly disappointed in the citizens involved in the tragedy. The truck driver who hit the girl did not stop, get out and check to see what had happened – instead he hit and ran. Then passers-by stared at the injured young child as they walked by, but did nothing to help her. Bicyclists and motorcyclists consciously drove around her. What kind of society has been fostered where running over a two-year-old does not cause people to stop what they are doing and rush to her aid?

The observers' level of indifference potentially caused a two-year-old to lose her life. Hopefully the personal shame and global outrage that this video has brought will alter the way people think and shine light on the fact that humans naturally shy away from getting involved in certain incidents.

Although this was a terrible tragedy, it was not the first of its kind. In 1964, New York City resident Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in the parking lot of her house while various neighbors and citizens ignored her cries for help. In this case, there were numerous occasions for bystander involvement which could have prevented her death. The murderer began attacking Kitty, stopped, walked away and when no one came to help her, returned and killed Kitty.

The Kitty Genovese story elicited similar reactions of horror and disbelief at the idea that humans could be so apathetic. This time around, the world is blaming the Chinese for their negligent behavior, but this behavior is not constrained to a single country. People’s reluctance to get involved and help those around them in crowded areas, a phenomenon called the "Bystander Effect," is a flaw of human nature. Hopefully incidents like Wang Yue and Kitty Genovese's will help rectify this appalling behavior, so that no person will ever be ignored or forgotten.



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  • Alex B. (View Email) on October 27, 2011 at 4:34 PM
    Read The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. The bystander effect is not an appalling behavior, but more of a part of human nature which reduces the individual's responsibility in situations where there are many others around. It is also a resistance to be unique and stand out, thus facing possible ridicule or ostracism. This fear of shame is what has kept most societies stable during their existences. The only way people will come around is a bad incident (such as this one) happening now and then.
  • yea on October 27, 2011 at 4:51 PM
    its called the bystander affect. no one does anything because they assume someone else will.
  • Ozzie on October 27, 2011 at 5:44 PM
    Please stop comparing Kitty Genovese tragedy to Yue Yue's.. Both bad yes, but the details of the Kitty stabbing are not real clear. I can also understand if someone did not want to get involved if they saw a person being chased by a crazed man with a knife.. In that case people should at least call for help if they fear for their safety. Yue Yue's tragedy was completely different. She is a two year old baby girl of the earth that was run over twice then igonored by 18 adults. They were not fearing for their life, supposedly they feared that they would be blamed.. Thats BS! If you see a baby crying, bleeding, dying you help that baby with out a second thought of what might happen to you.. Especially if all you had to do was move her off the road (or stop traffic) and comfort her until help arrived. I feel the greatest thing a person can do in life is save another life, and these people had that chance and they blew big time.. We should all ask baby Yue Yue for her forgivness, I feel that we all let her down.
  • anon on October 27, 2011 at 6:12 PM
    But would you really go help that girl if you were there?
  • blazer'13 on October 27, 2011 at 8:11 PM
    "she is a two year old baby girl of the earth..." what? Also kitty genovese was left for dead on a sidewalk for like 2 hours or something and no one helped her out, so it's not like people saw she was being chased by the attacker. If I recall correctly, she did call for help multiple times, and people in the appartments heard but didnt do a thing about it. I also read The Tipping Point and i don't think these two tragedies should be considered any less tragic than the other. It's easy for us to say now, behind our computer screens, to say that we would absolutely help that child or person... Obviously it's the right thing to do. But the bystander effect does make a lot of sense and in a moment like that, you probably aren't thinking staright so icant really blame them. It's just human nature, but it doesn't mean that it's right


  • heart broken mother :( on October 27, 2011 at 8:19 PM
    i'd of helped her in a heart beat i wouldnt have to think twice, whatever the consiquences, there is no excuse for what they all did i dont care what anyone says its cold heartedness thru and thru. i hope the image of that poor little girl hauntes every single on of those heartless b*****ds that stood by and watched her die, i hope everytime the drivers close there eyes they can see her body. a child's life is priceless and NO chid deserves what she got.
    SHAME ON THE WORLD- HUMANS WILL BE THERE OWN DESTRUCTION!!
  • lisa (View Email) on October 27, 2011 at 10:21 PM
    Yes...that's being a grown-up! The greatest joy you can have in life is to help another. Humans are the only beings that get to experience true altruistic behavior. We can want to help those who are not related to us at no benefit to ourselves. That's one of the many reasons we're so special. I know that the only true predictor of future behavior is past behavior. It's hard to be the one to stand out sometimes but if your making the correct moral choice it's always worth it...always! I Have two boys near her age...she was little, in pain, and afraid. May God have comforted her when no one else choose to.
  • R (View Email) on October 28, 2011 at 2:39 PM
    I am pretty shocked by some of the commentators justifying the unjustifiable. This was no bystander effect - there was NO crowd. It was INDIVIDUALS passing by a bleeding child. I am rarely affected by distressing video footage but this video made me want to stop the earth and completely get off. I hate being singled out and like my privacy but i can remember five or six occasions in my life where i had to do sonething in a crowd because noone elae would do anything to help that one person. On two occasions people bystanding came up and thanked me and it annoyed me because I put myself in danger as a woman to challenge wrongdoing and men usually came up to say thanks. I was annoyed because why was I left to stand out of the crowd every time. I do not know what was going through those people's minds but that little girl I saw looked like my little girl. My heart shattered when I saw her arms flailing which meant despite the CCTV silence she was still conscious and crying with pain. Her legs were crushed by repeatedly being run over. The man who ran over and her then ran away counted his money and ran and I don't give a damn how much it cost to stop or if there is no social security in China. If a child is hurt you get it help, you risk being charged or whatever but stand up as a human being and do what's right. CCTV is much maligned for interfering with civil liberties but that footage told us the truth about the human condition. The hardness of peoples lives has slowly grinded our humanity away. Who knows they have seen too much of something similar in their lives, baby girls suffocated or left to die at birth , child slaves, worse. But The indifference we saw can be seen the world over.  It's not a Chinese thing. But We got to see it firsthand courtesy of grainy, silent CCTV and YouTube and the worlds media caught up. If we as human beings, no matter what our wealth or poverty, can take that one risk and stand up to indifference and help that child or others like her then our own lives are worth the next breathe we take, otherwise we are  no more than unfeeling machines. So please, stand up, forget yourself and do the right thing. Who knows it might be you or yours next time.
  • sad...very sad on October 29, 2011 at 12:07 PM
    The bystander effect may be part of human nature, but we as humans have the power to overcome it.

    We can choose not to stand idly by.

    This is not some hopeless phenomenon that can't be stopped.

    We can change it. We should change it.

    No one should have to die in a street, alone, brutally injured, while other human beings just stand and stare.

    No one.

    RIP Kitty, and Wang Yue. I'm so sorry that no one helped either of you.
  • Alex B. (View Email) on November 2, 2011 at 10:30 PM
    Some interesting comments here, and I do feel a few things can be pointed out. blazer '13, "just because it's human nature doesn't mean it's right" is a very true statement, but its being human nature means it is almost certainly inevitable. "heart broken mother", although I doubt somewhat that you are a mother, I don't doubt that humans will be their own destruction. All I know is I'll be destroyed fairly early or fairly late. I tend to hug the tails of the bell curve.

    That said, I do agree with lisa that being the only beings which get to experience and produce altruism sets us apart, but we clearly are not always altruists. One day (which may have already passed), someone can prove that life is an N-sum game, where N would be zero (or a bit below) if altruism, in its purest sense, did not exist, and thus N, the measure of overall human experience, depends on the level of altruism within human society. Being an altruist myself, I am proud in my ability to be one, yet every now and then I ask myself if I am committing Darwinistic suicide. Each time I defer it until later, a pattern which is bound to continue until my death.

    R, I cannot strongly disagree with you that there was no crowd. The lack of responsibility displayed is certainly reminiscent of the bystander effect, although not semantically equivalent. The only arguments I can think of would be that it occurred on a road, and as one is walking/driving down one way, one sees those going in the opposite direction pass by. For those approaching Wang Yue, seeing others pass by may reduce any potential feelings of guilt experienced in leaving a 2-year old in pain on the street. In addition, despite the footage only showing at most one or two people passing by at a given time, I doubt those passersby were the only people to witness the event, as it occurred in a city. The cries of a two-year old in such pain would be fairly shrill, and if it didn't carry due to other noises, it is likely that those other noises were people who would have seen the events transpire. An overwhelming amount of young people in China did attribute what happened to a decaying of morals, but what are morals but the bending of human nature into a mindset such that a society can exist, function, and prosper? If something were part of human nature, the morals of any group which accepts that something need not explicitly include it, as that which is not governed by morals is governed by human nature. The bystander effect is an interesting phenomenon which has been studied to some extent, and as of yet it seems as if it is part of human nature.

    Your (R's) personal contribution makes it clear, though, that the bystander effect is relevant and present in our lives. I actually would sympathize with your (light) anti-feminist sentiment that doing something to be thanked by men who could have done it themselves is annoying, even if my sister definitely would condemn it [oh by the way, I am male]. I, too, have been the only one to act in a group, but not in situations which were anything near life-threatening.

    Finally, the most recent comment gives us the most hope by pointing out very clearly that we can choose not to stand idly by; that we are not bound to do as our nature prescribes. It is this argument to which I have played somewhat of a devil's advocate role, but it is also the only real way we can make progress. The more we restrict our nature, the more relapses will occur (such as this one), but the more we will progress.

    I will restate the purpose of this post: to provide some of my thoughts on the other comments posted here, to demonstrate my insecurity by arguing, to some extent, both sides of this issue, and to state the ultimate hope of our existence: that we can safely remove the worse parts of our nature while minimizing the danger and trauma caused by the (almost certainly) inevitable relapses. After all, I do feel this issue is worth such a prolonged discussion.
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