Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fighting For A Principle

A few years ago, a teenage schoolboy was stabbed to death near the Kota Kinabalu central market in broad daylight. Apparently two Filipino guys asked him to hand over his money, but he refused, so they stabbed him. It was later found that he had very little money on him. The news made headlines not only because of the audacity of the crime, but also because there were many eyewitnesses at the time of the commotion, and yet none of them lifted a finger to help.

More recently, I myself witnessed a suicide attempt near my office as reported here. In the end, the poor fellow survived the ordeal that day—although a couple of weeks later he successfully killed himself anyway! During all the excitement, it was interesting to note that a friendly civilian was seen trying to help by talking to the man from a nearby window, apparently in the hope of calming him down. And then later, when the police and firemen were able to grab hold of the man, that friendly civilian also stuck out his hand to grab the man from falling. One has to wonder what would have happened if because of the "busybody" civilian's involvement, the police was unable to save the man. Maybe all fingers would be pointing at the busybody; he had no business getting involved with police business, since he was not trained for the job? After all, that is human nature—when something good happens, everyone would fight hard for the credit; but when something bad happens, everyone would be looking for somebody to blame.

We have come to a stage where common sense is no longer the primary determinant of our acts. A doctor who'd refuse to help an accident victim who's apparently beyond help in the street just outside his clinic, for fear that he will end up getting sued if that fellow dies. People, despite seeing a robbery taking place in broad daylight, reluctant to help for fear that they, too, might end up losing their lives. And people, when seeing a snatch-theft victim lying motionless in the street, reluctant to help either because they "don't want to get into trouble" or because there is always someone else who would help.

And then the inevitable happens...

There will come, sooner or later, a public outcry; criticisms abound: Those people at the scene who could have helped, but chose not to—they are heartless people!

The reality is that people are like that; they are always criticizing from the sidelines. It remains to be seen, however, if they'd really stick out their necks to help a fellow human in distress. I don't think that is a reflection of heartlessness; rather, which is a stronger force, compassion or self-interest? Most people, whether they'd want to admit it or not, almost always give priority to self-interest first. They would help others—yes—so long as that won't result in negatively affecting their self interests.

The principle of helping others in need is a noble one; it is always very easy to fight for a principle, but it is not always easy to live up to that principle!

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