"Sure I heard screams," the neighbor said. "In fact, they were so loud, I had to turn up the volume of my television set." The screams came from the apartment next door, where vicious robbers had poured lighter fluid over their bound victim and set him afire. Unusual? Not in our sick, self-seeking age.
PERHAPS even more shocking than the viciousness of our growing crime is the unbelievable apathy, toward it.
It Could Have Been in Your City
Police records abound with cases of whole crowds of people watching the most brutal acts with seeming indifference. In New York, a nude, ravished girl fled screaming from her attacker to the threshold of a Bronx office building. Some 40 onlookers failed to help her. Policeman Norman Brown said, in Bronx Criminal Court, "Forty people, could have helped that girl yesterday, but none of the jerks helped her." The girl, working as a telephone receptionist, had been beaten, threatened with a razor, and raped. Finally breaking free from her assailant, she fled down a stairway from her second story desk, screaming, "Help me! Help me! He raped me, he raped me!" About 20 persons were attracted by her cries. She fell down the last several steps to the first-floor landing. The crowd grew to 40 persons. The girl, sobbing and screaming, was left lying on the floor, dad only in a jacket, as the crowd quietly looked. Not one person moved to help the girl. Policemen, arriving later, had to shove some of the crowd aside to reach the stricken girl. In Philadelphia, a crowd of shoppers stood watching as a 62-year-old woman grappled with a purse snatcher. The woman, Edith E. Lambert, is partially crippled. She was waiting for a bus when she discovered a man attempting to steal her wallet from her purse. She grabbed the wallet, and punched the man in the face. He tried to board a bus to escape, but she grabbed his coattails and hung on, screaming, "Don't let him on the bus don't move the bus! Don't let him get away!" Police said the woman bravely hung on until an officer arrived. Several bystanders offered encouragement. One man said, "Go ahead, lady, give it to him!" But none offered to help. Mrs. Lambert said she regretted not having used her cane on the man. In San Diego, California, two policemen were injured in an automobile accident near a drive-in restaurant. Customers jeered derisively as carhops rushed to their aid. "Let them die who cares?" commented one onlooker. Unbelievably, one spectator looted a carhop's pocket of coins while she was helping one of the accident victims.
"Go Ahead and Jump!"
Richard Roland Reinemann, 19 years of age, was having a life-and-death struggle with himself. He was pacing back and forth on a narrow ledge atop the 11-story DeWitt Clinton Hotel in Albany, New York, obviously intent on suicide. A crowd gathered on the lawn of the State Capitol across the street, and soon police and firemen rushed to the scene. Spotlights were turned on the youth, and radio and television stations carried reports of the boy atop the building threatening to leap to his death. The reports swelled the crowds as many rushed to see. "Chicken!" screamed someone "Go ahead and jump !" Richard paced back and forth along the ledge. "I hope he jumps on this side," a well-dressed onlooker remarked, "We couldn't see him if he jumped over there." Some of Richard's relatives were rushing to the scene. A man in the crowd was heard to say, "That kid isn't faking. I'll bet 10 bucks he jumps." Someone took the bet. By the time the boy's frightened relatives arrived, the crowd numbered about 3,000 persons. "I can't wait around all night, I just missed my favorite television show," said one woman. When the distraught youth was finally pulled to safety, the crowd broke up, and began drifting away. The betting man cursed, and said, "He cost me 10 bucks!" "These people wanted him to jump they really wanted to see him die," said a fireman, shaking his head in disbelief. And then there was that "Palm Sunday" in Los Angeles. At about 11:00 a.m., "Christians" were going to and from services, in seasonal observance, presumably, of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, who gave the example of the "Good Samaritan." A newspaper photographer noticed traffic swinging wide to avoid an automobile which had crashed into a light standard. As the photographer neared, he saw a man lying in full view of the passing motorists, obviously unconscious and injured. The photographer radioed for help over equipment carried in his automobile, and, satisfied he could offer no other immediate assistance, quickly photographed the unbelievable spectacle for the record. The picture he took shows the injured man lying beside his car, and the traffic continuing on. Another motorist finally stopped to light flares and then continued. When police investigated, they found the horn had been blowing incessantly from the moment of impact, finally stopping only when the battery went dead. A resident of the area said she had seen the crash, and that another man had fled the scene, dazed and bleeding. She hadn't bothered to notify anyone.
Canada no Exception
In Montreal, Canada, a 23-year-old waitress, Patricia Cunningham, had been beaten, choked, stabbed and slashed by vicious assailants in what was described by police as one of the most brutal attacks recalled by the department. The victim, bleeding from at least 75 razor slashes, crawled barely conscious down the hallway of her apartment after the brutal attack by three men. She tapped weakly on a door for help, and had the door slammed in her face. Police said a neighbor, answering the feeble knock, was shocked by the sight, and slammed the door then called the owner of the apartment building. He in turn called police. The victim required six hours of surgery to help her survive.
A Case in Australia
In Australia, a man was held down in a city street by 15 teenagers, kicked, punched, spat upon, robbed of $70.00, and left unconscious. "Kill him! Kill him!" screamed the girl friends of the gang, who were watching. The man's piteous screams were heard by crowds leaving a nearby cinema. Some looked the other way. Others watched, briefly. But no one offered to help. So the victim, reviving, went to the Darlinghurst police station to report the incident. "Sorry, it's not in our district," he was told. "You should have gone to central." So he called a cab to take him to a hospital for treatment. Remarkably, en route to the hospital, he recognized part of the gang which attacked him. He asked the cabbie to call his base on the taxi's radio, and notify police. He was refused. The cab driver said, "Not on your life, mate, it didn't happen in my cab." The man, Rocco Di Zio, an Italian, and managing editor of an Italian language newspaper, said, "It seems that in Sydney you could be bashed, robbed, and even dying, and nobody would care." These are only a few of the recent sickening episodes, revealing a shameful criminal attitude of inhumanity of callous stupidity and non-involvement in the face of the most piteous human needs. Why? What's behind the "I'll get mine I'm concerned about me" attitude so plentifully evidenced today? Was it always like this? To be sure, there have been sufficient histories of man's inhumanity to fellowman catalogued down through the centuries from ancient Egypt to present-day America to recognize that such incredible self-seeking is not limited to any one nation, or any one race. It is a human sickness. The causes are fairly simple to understand, once we are willing to face squarely the influences shaping our attitudes determining our conduct.
The Sickness of Affluence
There are two human extremes which can produce a don't-care kind of noninvolvement in the suffering of others. One is a common disaster, a plight striking whole societies simultaneously. Starving peoples in India, Africa, Central or South America are clear evidence to support this obvious conclusion. When masses of humans share the same inhuman suffering rarely does one see self-sacrifice, humanitarian instincts, or man helping fellowman. Perhaps the most extreme cases came out of prisons, concentration camps and death factories during World War II. Not all prisoners lost their humanity, to be sure but many did. When sheer personal survival is at stake, afflicted humans have little time or energy for concern over the sufferings of another, caught up in a common disaster. Documented cases of the most bestial kind of mistreatment, even among fellow prisoners, are a matter of record. History points to the most grisly and sickening extremes of such inhumane desperation even to the point of cannibalism, and that on occasion among friends, or even family. Conversely, that same common disaster can bring forth the most outstanding cases of personal sacrifice and heroism on record such as one human gladly laying down his life to spare another though these are once-in-a-while occasions, and not the average behavior. Common disaster is one extreme human condition which can produce a determined kind of personal behavior which ignores the suffering of fellowman. Another is the exact opposite of poverty or disaster. It's the extreme of too much. The disease of affluence the fat, overfed, flatulent, opulent, self-satisfied, comfortably entertained, spoiled, glossy and pampered people of plenty this sickness, too, can result in the most nauseating kinds of inhumanity. We, in the Western, English- speaking nations of the good earth are seeing the symptoms of a dread disease all around us. The disease has dozens of symptoms all of which inspire feverish attempts at removal of the symptoms, therefore attempting to treat the effect of the basic disease, rather than root out the cause. The disease is simply too much. Too much of everything too much leisure, entertainment; too much material wealth and too much envy, greed and hatred spawned because of it.
Concern for Self
Let's face it we're spoiled. We simply don't care anymore. We rarely find a person who truly cares about what happens to other people. Oh, sure, there are always the tears of outrage or futility when seeing some particularly nauseating view of human suffering, like the thousands of little emaciated children, with their grotesque, swollen stomachs the testimony to their advanced stage of starvation but let's face it, these are not the problems that really excite people. But racial, social, economic injustices any cause, it seems, which succeeds in involving itself with ME, and with MY environment with what happens to ME, these are the problems that excite people. The cry is "Yeah, but what about ME?" today, with very little obvious concern for the other fellow. None of this is to say the social injustices (where they are real) are good, or that they should remain. It is to say, rather, that we have a very obvious lack of proper priority! Self is the dominating force in each human being. Self-seeking concern for the immediate person is the strongest natural motivation. Only a truly mature, deeply concerned and enlightened humanitarian can rise above self, and become at least AS concerned about fellowman as self. Even Jesus knew it is utterly impossible for humans to love others MORE than self, and so commanded man to love his neighbor "As himself." Let's admit that's loving your neighbor (and Jesus defined 'neighbor' as any fellow human of whatever race or nation) a great deal! It would be a wonderful world if humans really did love each other AS themselves. But there exist no laws to force one man to so love another human being. At least, there are no generally recognized laws which carry harsh penalties for denying help to a victim of a crime, even though we may feel there should be. A man may appear a coward to his friends for having drawn back from helping rescue a drowning person. A relative may be censured by the family for having slammed the door in the face of a terribly injured neighbor but there are no possible consequences under the law, unless, in some extreme case, a bereaved loved one attempted to bring suit resulting from some obvious neglect of the most basic human actions alleging criminal intent to abet bodily harm. And yet, there are such laws whether we recognize them or not. Obviously, the people blithely going their way on a "Palm Sunday" were no more active, practicing Christians than, say, a defrocked monk calling on the gods of chance for a seven in a floating crap game! We can all indignantly censure them. And we can all wonder whether we, seeing the same unconscious and injured man, would have been quick to stop, quick to offer aid.
Laws for Human Conduct
There are laws which carry penalties, believe it or not, for infraction laws which REQUIRE one human being to be deeply concerned for another to offer aid to bear another man's burden. These are the "least" of the commandments placed before each man commandments each person must CHOOSE to obey, or disobey. Whether you recognize the existence of a Higher Power God or not, God does exist! He has set living, vital laws in motion; not only the laws of physics and chemistry, but laws regulating human conduct, laws of decent and humane treatment of, and consideration for, fellowman. Those laws are no more casual suggestions than is it a "suggestion" you remain affixed to good earthly soil by gravity. God has never made any special point in your private life of requiring you to sleep a few hours each night. Still you obey. You don't consciously, deliberately, after a moral struggle, come to such a marvelous choice. You merely do that which is necessary so long as it's YOU that benefits. But try the same principles on for size when it comes to another human being whether your hair hangs over your collar, and you are known to frequently leer at the "establishment" and sneer "peace," or not. Do you literally jump at the chance to aid, to serve, to help, to offer comfort and cheer to a fellow human? Come, now be honest. At least, since no one is listening as your own private mind reads these words be honest with yourself. It's much, MUCH easier to become angry, and to "put down" a fellow human who looks askance at your manners and dress and far more appealing, for that matter, to join the field of intellectual battle, than to be found squatting ignominiously beside a muddy curb, helping in some small way an injured man with Jack Daniels on his breath. Try it out this way: How many of our enraged young "intellectuals" are far more excited over various real or imagined political, social and racial evils within a flatulent, affluent society the somewhat unsettled fate of the 'Chicago 7,' for instance than the almost unbelievable daily plight of human suffering beyond any description in Nigeria, or, for that matter, the local county hospital, where one of their own friends may be screaming for the doctors to make those snakes quit crawling in and out of his nose, while trying to recover from a bad 'trip' on LSD? If you are one who would gladly stand, rain-splattered, listening to the ranting of ultra-left liberals who would joyously greet the destruction of America with tears of gratitude as opposed to one who could be found tending to the simplest necessary ministrations of mercy for an accident victim you've no business reading further. But if you do truly have a feeling towards fellow man if you really do 'love' humanity, maybe there's an outside chance you'll understand the next few paragraphs. You see, we are under a strange, symptomatic sort of curse a last-minute dulling of humanitarian instincts in favor of the "I'll get mine" syndrome. Most of us believe, deep in our bones, that humanity has simply had it. We not only wonder whether man WILL survive we're beginning to wonder whether he should. We can see the cause-and-effect relationship of calloused spectators watching helpless victims die. Having viewed tens of thousands of murders, rapes, muggings, robberies and assaults via novels, comics, television and the motion pictures, it's almost like another "scene" unreal, somehow, and requiring no personal action on one's own part. We can readily understand why some people would prefer to remain "uninvolved," what with potential retribution from enraged fellow gang members, tiring hours talking to detectives at police stations, and having jobs interrupted for possible court appearances (and, anyhow, we have resignedly come to accept the notion that courts probably won't really punish criminals after all, not ONE murderer died for his crime in either 1968 or 1969 in all the United States!). But WHAT CONSTITUTES "INVOLVEMENT"?
You Are Involved!
When you see, with your own eyes, a bestial, hideous crime being committed, then, like it or not, YOU ARE involved. You are already part of the "scene" if you witness a crime being committed! Turning your back constitutes a double sin a terrible crime, in itself! First, it denies aid and comfort to a desperate fellow human being, and therefore is a heinous and brutal deed. Second, it GIVES aid and comfort to the criminal, by guaranteeing him safety and anonymity in the commission of his crime. But our arguments are endless we would probably conjure up all sorts of bloody scenes which would include ourselves, standing there helpless amidst a dozen crooks all armed with submachine guns, and us saying "but what could I do?" We truly are living in the very times predicted by one of the apostles of the early New Testament Church! Paul told Timothy, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their own selves..." (II Tim. 3:1-2). A dramatic view into OUR self-seeking societies! And yet PREDICTED, centuries ago. Why? Was this just happenstance or was the man actually inspired to see what the end result of human beings "doing their own thing" would be? He went on to say, "... men shall be... covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents [never a more prevalent disease of society than now!] unthankful, unholy, without natural affection..." (II Tim. 3:2-3). And we are all of these things, and more. The truth hurts, of course and seeing ourselves as we really ARE is always a very painful experience but the grisly statistics are true, fact is fact, and the incidents of fellow humans ignoring their neighbor's plight continue to mount day by day. Will we ultimately come to the point where one neighbor, or fellow office worker, or even the member of the same family will remark, upon viewing the heavily bandaged person on the following day, "Oh, was that you screaming?"