Imagine that you are in the middle of a normal day. You are conducting a very routine errand in your own neighbourhood and are just leaving the library to get into the car and go on to the grocery store when suddenly you hear a shout behind you and a crash. Turning back into the library, you see that a row of shelves has fallen onto a group of people. (You’re used to taking books off these shelves and you know that they are jiggly.)
Shaken a bit, you start to help and, within 15 minutes or so, everyone is alright. There are no injuries and the only spines that are wrenched are those of the books. Whew! You exchange a few words with everyone and turn to leave when you notice that there are a number of library patrons who would appear not to have moved at all during all this kerfuffle.
The details of this situation have been changed to protect the guilty. Something similar to this did happen to me recently although the locations were different because I truly could not believe that there are people so indifferent to the possibility of people being hurt around them that they could not even interrupt their routine to ensure that everyone was safe and well and I do worry that I am accusing them too hastily. Had they gone back to what they were doing because others were attending to the situation? Did they check, I wondered, to see if it was someone they know? Would it have made a difference?
This past week when bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon, it seemed as though everyone nearby scurried to assist their neighbours. Is this incorrect? Were there, in fact, a number of people so indifferent that, even though they heard a blast, they proceeded through their day, running their errands and choosing their weekend reading as though everything was as it should be?
I am more troubled by this than I would like. Perhaps this is just a minor instance in the scheme of human indifference, but I wish I hadn’t noticed. I suppose I should be glad no one posted pictures on facebook or the internet.