One can’t help but wonder sometimes if we are losing our social conscience.
This might seem an odd thing for a comfortably anti-social curmudgeon to worry about, but worry I do, usually in the small hours of the morning when the streets are dark and wild dogs can be heard howling at the moon.
Most of the time, I am quite content to leave others alone as long as they leave me alone. This seems to be an agreeable system.
However, as Mr. Donne was quick to point out when he was jotting down his meditations back in 1624 or thereabouts, no man is an island, no matter how appealing being an island, (or living on one) might be.
There are times when all of us need other people.
There have been a number of cases recently in which people who were victims of crimes found that other people who were in a position to come to their aid let them down.
In Richmond, CA, a 15-year-old girl was gang-raped and assaulted for two hours outside a school dance.
It has been reported that in addition to the core group who perpetrated this crime, as many as two dozen others came and went while it was in progress.
Some reports suggest that the event took on an almost carnival-like atmosphere, as if it were some form of sick entertainment.
Word of what was going on apparently spread, both by word-of-mouth and by text messages that were sent by observers to their friends and acquaintances.
It was not until a former student a few blocks from the school heard about the incident from two people who had left the scene that anyone called the police, who then arrived and broke up the sordid little gathering.
This sent the perpetrators and observers running from the scene, leaving the semi-conscious victim alone on the pavement.
One is past being surprised at those who initiated this crime. People who lurk around waiting to victimize any defenseless target have been around since the world was young.
What is more troubling is the apparent increase in the number of people who are willing to stand around and watch these events as if they were entertainment.
How would these people react, one wonders, if it was their sister or daughter lying there defenseless on the ground while a hoard of scumbags took turns violating her while others cheered them on?
Another recent example was the case of the 16-year-old honor student who was beaten to death in Chicago when he apparently stumbled into some sort of gang fight.
We hear more and more about attacks involving rape or other assault in which people stood by and did nothing to help the victim, or worse still, took an active interest in the situation, in some cases even recording the events for the “enjoyment” of others.
One wonders if these people are so bored with their lives that the exploitation of others is the only way they can be entertained.
One hopes that this is not the case, but unless decent people are willing to stand up for what is right, we are all in trouble.
One assumes that there are still a lot more law-abiding citizens in the world than there are thugs, but this is not an advantage unless these solid citizens do the right thing.
There are times when social isolationism is not an option; when minding one’s own business is not acceptable.
Mob mentality and gang violence are frightening things, and it may not be prudent to jump into the fray when we happen upon some act of group violence. We could end up accomplishing nothing more than becoming victims ourselves.
This does not mean, however, that we should stand by and watch, or say we don’t want to get involved.
Witnessing an act of violence is one of those unfortunate situations in life in which once we have seen it, we are already involved, whether we like it or not.
We have a responsibility to do what we can to help the victims, which might involve nothing more than going to a safe place and calling the police.
If we are willing to stand by and treat crime as a game, and if this becomes somehow socially acceptable, then we can’t complain if we or someone close to us becomes the next victim.
If that happens, it will be too late to say we don’t want to get involved. The punks who commit these crimes are not known for being good listeners, nor do they have any regard for the rights of others or common decency.