Monday, 17 September 2007

Fighting for right

My thoughts have been troubled of late. The past week I have been haunted by something I heard from my friend Vicky.

It was Tuesday, and I was driving us both to Rock Choir. I asked casually after a mutual friend of ours, not quite expecting to hear that she was in a terrible state because her brother-in-law had been killed last month. According to Vicky, his son had been involved in a fight outside his house; the brother-in-law had gone out to try to stop it and had become involved in what the police called 'an altercation'. It all ended when one of the men involved got into his 4wd and 'ran' the brother-in-law over, reversing back over him again for good measure. The scene was witnessed by the whole street, including his wife and son. The culprit has been arrested of course, but the worst part of it is: the son has been charged with ABH.

This story struck a nerve - not only because of the tragic nature of the events and the seeming pointlessness of the man's death - but because it touched a theme that keeps cropping up in my life lately. We all know that we should intervene if someone is being beaten or picked on, we all know we should stick up for ourselves, our property and our family, we all know we should help someone in distress. But how many of us dare do it?

I know I don't - I didn't stand up to ASBO Ange (see previous post) because I thought I would get clobbered by her; I didn't comment when I saw a woman beating her toddler, because I had my own child with me, I was scared and thought that the woman would only take it out on her kid later. I'm a wimp, and I am ashamed of it. But I'm not alone: a friend of mine who is a nurse, says she has to think carefully before helping someone on the street. She passed by a man having a heart attack the other day and didn't go to help - partly because someone was already calling an ambulance, but also because she knew she could be sued if her resuscitation techniques did not work. It's just not right .

There was a time when 'have-a-go' heroes were celebrated, promoted and applauded in films or stories and highlighted in the media. Now I feel it's gone too far the other way. How many times do we hear or read of people standing up to muggers, burglars, gangs, bullies and getting injured, killed or arrested for their troubles? And how many times do we hear of the stories of those who succeed and the baddie getting their come-uppance?

It's giving us all the wrong message for if none of us dare to do what is right, then what does that mean for society?

9 comments:

Flowerpot said...

I quite agree, Mid_lifer. I was stoned last year by a bunch of 7 year olds and rang my husband - he came pounding down the road and gave them hell. But I was terrified, and would be if I saw someone hurt int he street. It's a really horrifying way of life now. What should we do?

Dee said...

This is terrible indeed. I also think twice before helping someone, and then I'm torn between wanting to help, and protecting myself! Especially in London. You have to be SO careful. I am generally quite trusting of people (some call it naive).. and it's come back to bite me in the past, this attitude. So now I'm more careful.

Mid-lifer said...

Flowerpot, what a dreadful story. But as you say - what can we do?

Dee - like you, I'm generally trusting (even though I grew up in London), but it's such a shame when that trust is shattered. Something has happened to the strength of the social fabric because now we don't share the same values and rules.

debio said...

mid-lifer; I think we have got the society we deserve by allowing basic rules to be flouted and questioned. Acceptable behaviour is now exceptional because children and youth are given free-rein and, even if they are brought up short, the punishments are no deterrent.

Depressingly, I also think it has gone too far for the 'good' people to stand up and be counted and, in any case, they are the new 'criminals' - e.g. rubbish in wrong bins, driving wrong cars, vast carbon footprints - as they're an easy target and create an institutionalised diversion from the anarchy.

debio said...

Come over to my place to collect your award....

Mid-lifer said...

Thanks Debio.

It's a cliche I know, but I think it has a lot to do with the break-down of community as well as the 'me' culture that seems to be growing. When my mum and I grew up we were taught to think of others before ourselves. Now it's all about protecting our self-esteem.

A little bit of balance perhaps is what's needed.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

It is terribly sad that our society has adapted this attitude. I am no exception. I am a wimp. But with the nutters we are likey to encounter these days I would rather not intervene. However, some months ago, I arrived at the scene of a very bad car accident involving a bunch of teenagers who had clearly been racing along a main road. One of the cars lost control and flipped over. The passenger broke his back (we heard at a later date). I stopped my car and got out and started to move debris which had been scattered in the middle of the road. Then one of the female teenagers started ranting at the driver of the upturned vehicle, "you effing wanker, look what you done!" I will never forget it. They were furious with eachother and I became scared. There was no way I was getting involved. The girl had phoned the ambulance so I drove away, trying hard not to feel guilty for my lack of assistance but I have to be honest, I was really frightened when they started shouting obscenities at eachother. It was in the paper a few days later and the passenger was in a pretty bad way, but the driver was a well known thug. As was his girlfriend. Perhaps, I was right not to get involved after all.

Crystal xx

Around My Kitchen Table said...

I did a first aid course recently and there was a long list of what you shouldn't do, just in case you got sued later. I hope, though, I would be brave enough to ignore those risks if I saw someone who I thought I could help. I live in a Devon village and recently told off some kids, aged about nine or ten, who were lighting paper beside the cars in the car park. I explained that they might catch a car on fire and it might belong to someone very poor who couldn't afford to replace it! This seemed to strike a chord and they all said sorry and slunk away. I don't think I'd be brave enough to have a go at older kids, though.

Mid-lifer said...

Id have done the same Crystal ..

Kitchen Table, good for you! More power to ya.