On Human Nature

Somewhere I once heard, or read, (and can’t find it now, alas) “What is man? How like an angel, and yet, how like a devil.” It is based on Psalm 8, but it’s the “devil” part I’m thinking of now, for this reason:

CNN: As many as 20 present at gang rape outside school dance

Seriously? That fifteen people would stand by and watch? What kind of monster would hear that this was happening, and instead of trying to stop it either themselves or by calling the police, goes to watch. For two and a half hours.

In one of the interviews I heard about it, the anchor and the legal expert were trying to determine to what extent the bystanders could be help culpable. The short answer is: they can’t. You are not legally bound to report a crime; you cannot be held legally responsible for watching a crime take place. But at one point the expert said something along the lines that a person could only be held responsible “if you do anything to allow the rapist to continue the crime you are liable” — which would mean, one would think, not doing anything to prevent the crime, e.g. calling the police.

Whatever happened to: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:17)? I can only hope that there will be enough collective outrage from all who hear of this that something actually might be done to bring justice to those against whom justice must be served, and to protect others in the future.

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5 thoughts on “On Human Nature

  1. Katherine says:

    This is why horror movies and violence in our culture is so disturbing. Not because I think people will repeat it, but because it makes helping others less real. These people have seen this in movies and on TV, they don’t need to help with the problem, they can just watch, and it gets taken care of.

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    • Chera says:

      I wondered if that might be part of it, and also, just the pervasiveness of the American (Western?) myth of the self-important individual: the apathy that results in a lack of a greater sense of community, that even as individuals, we are connected to other human souls; bound, by mere fellowship as members of the same race, to think of others as well as ourselves. We do, indeed, have the knowledge of good and evil, and the responsibility to know the difference. As human beings we have the power of choice, which even atheists will have to admit that animals do not have. That people would stand by and watch and do nothing, or even stoop so low as to participate, is horrific. It makes me wonder if we have not become so much like beasts to forget that we are human.

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  2. Megan says:

    Awful. Sadly, one of my first thoughts was that I would think people would simply leave the scene and not stand by and watch! I mean, ignoring the crime and doing nothing is wrong, but really- watching?? Disgusting and sad to realize in ourselves.

    I remember discussing a case in psychology of how everyone waits for someone to intervene but no one wants to be the one. You see this gutless principle early on, when teasing or gossip occurs in grade school, and the kid who knows it’s wrong just doesn’t have the guts to speak up unless someone else does first.

    But watching?

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