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Fear, apathy stop folks from helping others

Update: August, 22/2012 - 09:15

by Bich Huong

 

Early last month, I read a story about a young man in HCM City who fell off his motorbike after a crash and was left lying in the middle of a busy road for hours one afternoon. People passed by staring curiously but no-one was willing to lend a hand.

The image reminds me of a friend of mine who was left unconscious following a traffic accident late one night on a quiet street. He was much luckier than the man from HCM City because two passers-by took him to a nearby hospital, contacted his family and waited for them to arrive.

Doctors said that without the help of the two ‘good samaritans', he may have died.

I dread to think what would have happened if they had just turned a blind eye and driven on without stopping.

Optimists would say that someone else would have come to his rescue but what if they didn't? It seems more and more people are becoming apathetic to other's pain, resulting in their indifference and hesitation to help people in need.

"We are not obligated to do anything but we should because traffic accident victims really need help," said Nguyen Hong Hanh, 28, of Ha Noi's Hoang Mai District.

"However, to be honest, I'd be hesitant to offer help," she said.

"I would phone the police or emergency services," Hanh said, but shook her head when asked if she would take the victim to a hospital and report it to the police.

"I've heard stories about people who have helped out when they've seen an accident, but it's ended up causing them problems, she said.

Hanh told me about a witness to an accident who ended up spending hours in a police station, and another person who took a victim to hospital but was misunderstood and blamed for the accident.

And it's not just a matter of dropping them off outside the hospital, you also have to provide your own personal information to register a room for the patient, and leave a deposit for medical treatment. So complicated!

A 20-year-old student said to me that she wouldn't know how to help if she saw an accident.

"I'm scared of seeing accidents. Broken legs, blood, people unconscious, hard-breathing, crowds, traffic jams and choking air," she said.

"Just keep going is usually my choice," she said, relieved that it was her prerogative.

Can we reproach people like the two above? They haven't done anything wrong, and if they did try to help, they could get in trouble.

Psychologist Dr Nguyen Minh Duc from the National Institute of Education Management said that concerns about administrative hassles at police stations and hospitals were minor reasons for their hesitation.

The indifference, apathy and even cruelty was rooted from the selfishness inside people, he said, adding that unfortunately, over the last two decades, apathy seemed to have spread.

Many people of a similar age to Duc agreed with him that relationships among humans nowadays are not valued as much as they used to be.

Selfishness can be seen in temples and pagodas where people usually go to pray for themselves, he said, emphasising that few people thought of praying for the community in general.

Duc said that he felt sad to know that some parents advised their children to keep away from accidents. As a result, helping a stranger has become an alien concept.

In the fight against selfishness and apathy, we need to boost honouring good examples with good deeds. In modern times with the fast pace of life and work, it is easy for people to become selfish, saying they don't even have enough time for themselves, let alone others.

It's a shame if trust in humanity and good deeds are being lost to apathy. Throughout history, there have always been good people and bad people, but how can the good win?

Duc said that there should be a mechanism in Viet Nam to deliver timely support to traffic accident victims.

He suggested that at grass roots levels in communes and wards, there should be a society similar to the Women's Association or the Elderly Association, available to aid the victims. The organisation could be set up using donations and social welfare extracted from tax.

Explaining the purpose of the organisation, Duc said that it would encourage kind-hearted people to join and prosperous people to donate money. It might also attract funding for first aid activities, and on a practical level, deal with police reports, informing victims' families, and protecting their assets.

"Dealing with a traffic accident should be something we teach our children," he said, emphasising that it was not only life skills but also their developing personalities that would benefit. "Put yourself in someone else's shoes for better understanding, sharing and caring," he said. — VNS

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