Note: You probably don’t want to play this video if you’d like to avoid seeing cars drive over a dead body.
Early Monday morning in Hengyang, Hunan province, a woman was knocked down in the middle of the road. After calling the police, some helpful passersby shone lights around the area as a warning to passing vehicles. Shockingly, however, not only did cars not slow down, but some proceeded to run right over the wounded woman, ensuring her death.
“Yue Yue tragedy repeats itself” is the name of the 56.com video that appears after the jump. Indeed, the Yue Yue tragedy has been dredged to the top as people grapple with the reality of a country’s collective moral deficiency and wonder how we’ve created a system that can expose even the most helpless among us to further neglect and harm. Yes, this is a metaphor, and at the risk of “endangering” the upcoming 18th National Congress — God forbid any of us ruffle the perfectly laid plans of the country’s most powerful — it’s something we should talk about.
In the interest of fairness, of course, we’ll point out that this case isn’t nearly as black-and-white an example of delinquency. This happened at nighttime, on a highway, and the woman, it must be said, should not have been crossing the road. In addition, China’s tort laws are such that helping the woman could also make one culpable — that would explain why someone is filming, something we’ve seen before.
Nonetheless, people are bringing up Yue Yue, the ultimate example of how individual indifference, compounded, can damn an entire society.
On October 13, 2011, a minibus collided into 2-year-old Wang Yue in Guangzhou. Eighteen people would proceed to pass the dying girl without helping. The case made national headlines, and provoked mass soul-searching and outrage.
Will this latest incident similarly serve as a national awakening? It seems unlikely. But even if pangs of conscience make some of us consider what it means to be a decent person with basic, unspoken responsibilities to our fellow man and woman, how long before we doze off once again? In an ever-changing, crowded, competitive place as this, a cauldron of good, bad, and neutral elements where only the aggressive seem to rise, it can be easy to forget that we are not alone in this struggle. It can be easy — necessary, some might think — to erect barriers between ourselves and empathy.
This isn’t an excuse for ethically questionable behavior, but a reminder of the difficulties and challenges at every turn on our dark, fast highway. It’s an important reminder, at a terrible cost.