From Chinese Readers, and Others, About the Dead Chinese Toddler

Toddler.pngIn response to an item about the 2-year-old Chinese girl who was run over, twice, while passers-by looked on, several replies. (At right, screen shot from video that captured the whole sequence, showing one man who slightly altered his path so as not to step on the girl but otherwise didn't acknowledge her existence. She is the object just near his right foot. At that point she was still alive.)

Also, please check after the jump for extra info on the Kitty Genovese case that I mentioned.

First, from a reader with a Chinese name:

When I first heard of this horrible story, this other story immediately came to mind: "Dozens Walk Past Dying Hero Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax On New York Sidewalk"

I believe there certainly is a problem with the "Mind your own business" mindset in China.
But I also think this kind of collective indifference is probably more common for all mankind than we know and the structure and laws of the society can drive the degree of indifference to one way or another.

To do good that the "common people" wouldn't is what makes a hero. In the little girl's case, the trash collector person who tended the girl could be called a "hero" because she risked being financially ruined when she tried to help, albeit she was not wealthy. It is sad and an illness for a society to turn an act of common decency into a heroic act.

From another reader with a Chinese name:

I don't exactly want to judge the situation, but I would like to share a story of my own.  Last summer when my boyfriend and I were vacationing in China we stayed at the foot of the Yellow Mountain (at Tunxi).  It was kind of a trip because we had originally planned on staying at Huangshan city, but we kind of got duped by the taxi driver to stay closer at Tunxi instead.  The place looked like the Hollywood version of a town in China.  [JF: I know the place she is talking about, and I agree.] We got ripped off several time by the hotel owner and the tour we were on, but not majorly so. 

The point of this story wasn't how we got ripped off, but on the first day we were at Tunxi, we were walking around trying to find somewhere to eat.  This little boy around the age of 10 was "crossing the street" (as in walking for a long time in middle of the street - China style) behind us and some how he got hit by a motorcycle.  I'm not exactly sure how the accident happened considering there was only a couple of handful of people out and the motorcyclist was the only one on the street. 

The cyclist immediately stopped and looked like in a state of panic (he was about 40) and all the pedestrians went over to see what happened.  The kid was semi-conscience laying on the street.  I'm not sure who called the ambulance, but it arrived in about 5 minutes or so.  The motorcyclist carried the boy to the ambulance and they left together to go to the hospital. 

This was the only accident I've witness that involved a serious injury.  In a place where everyone's motive seem to make as much money of off the tourist, it should be amazing that more or less everyone came by to help.  I, too, hear countless story about injured people who receive no help in China.  I've witness a good number of people who give up their sit for the elderly or pregnant on a bus or subway.  So I don't really know what to think.  

From a reader with an Indian name:

This was many years ago.  About twenty years?   I forget.  This was in India.  This was in Madras.
My friend's father was returning home from the vegetable market - one bought vegetables everyday from the local open market if you remember, because there were no refrigerators - and this man had a heart attack and keeled over on a crowded street.  He was robbed, somebody made of with the vegetables. I was reminded of the scene from Zorba the Greek.
Do I think it is worse than what happened to the little girl in China?  Does it matter?
I think we make too much of religion, culture, the political system or an erratic judge as underlying reasons.
I think it is poverty.
I truly believe material poverty leads to a poverty of imagination.  It takes a religion, a culture, enlightened politics and a compassionate judiciary to overcome that.  Sometimes.
We like to think we are born with the moral imperative and that material poverty does not matter.  We are not. 
Monkeys, cheetahs, lions, giraffes, toads, centipedes, bacteria are probably are born with moral imperatives - you can not disprove this.
But not human beings.

More after the jump.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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