When I was in Hong Kong a couple weeks ago, my husband tripped on some stairs as we walked down a subway to ‘cross the street’. I screamed but couldn’t get to him as quickly as a young couple walking up the stairs. They stopped, helped pull him up, and asked if he was okay. He was, and we both thanked them profusely.
I was relieved for a couple of reasons. Number one, Tom was all right. But it was also reassuring to see this kindness in people we didn’t know. On our first day in Hong Kong, it would have been a bummer if no one had stopped to at least ask if Tom was okay.
In the US, I’ve seen similar mishaps and people are usually good about helping someone in need. But I’ve also seen many people just walk past someone who has fallen. Guest blogger Stuart Beaton shares his experience about this subject after he witnessed an accident over the weekend. Stuart lives in Tianjin, China and has a fabulous podcast site at http://rastous.podomatic.com/. Here’s Stu:
I learned today that here in China, helping someone is almost unknown. Especially if helping that person won’t result in any direct benefit to you.
This evening, Ellen and I were casually strolling in towards Iestan Department Store, which forms one corner of the busy “Walk Street” shopping area, when I heard a fairly loud thud from across the road. A man on an electric bike had mounted the curb, and slammed into a tree. His bike lay in the gutter, the wheels still spinning, and he was face down in a crumpled heap on the pavement.
And no one even broke stride to turn and look at him.
Well, I stopped, which forced Ellen to stop, and I went to cross the road.
“Don’t”, said Ellen, “don’t help him.”
Given that he could have been seriously injured, I wasn’t going to stand around and let him die from neglect.
I dragged Ellen protesting across the road, and made sure that he was still breathing, and not unconscious. Then I quickly picked up his bike from where it’d fallen, turned it off, and took the keys out of the ignition, and placed them in his top pocket. By now he’d managed to prop himself against the trunk of the tree, and there were no obvious signs of fractures or gashes – I got Ellen to ask him if he’d lost consciousness, but he hadn’t. Eventually he got back on his bike, and rode off.
But during the whole time I was helping him, not a single person at any stage even slowed down to offer assistance.
After he’d gone, Ellen berated me for helping him, saying that “He could have said you’d knocked him off his bike and hurt him, or that you caused the accident. You did the wrong thing, it’s bad to help people in China.”
“What if it’d been you?”, I replied, stung. “If you’d come off your bike, and might have hurt yourself, wouldn’t you want someone to help you?”
In the past, I’ve raised the idea of rendering assistance at accidents with the medical students I teach, and every time I’ve gotten the same impression – none of them would lift a finger to help someone outside of a hospital, when they were going to get some sort of paid reward for it. The whole idea is totally anathema to me, and it disgusts me that a society so large will do so little to help the members within it.
However, it’s not just the locals who won’t help people, the expats won’t lend a hand either.
I’ve lost track of the number of times the same group of individuals have said to me that they “want to help Ellen to find a better job” – but they never do. Empty platitudes mouthed to assuage their guilt, after Ellen has helped them with fixing the little problems in their lives.
Of course, there’s also the people who swore blind they were going to refer me to their friend at another Tianjin Uni, “tomorrow, I’ll come see you, give you his name, it’ll all be sorted”… . Strangely enough, I’ve not seen them in weeks, either.
Altruism is dead in China.
Guan Xi (“connections”) is dragging the corpse away, to melt down the gold fillings in its teeth.