Tale-Yax and Genovese

This article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/nyregion/26homeless.html?_r=2&) illustrates a prime example of the modern human’s indifference towards other people. In reading this article, I was reminded of the case of Kitty Genovese, and how it became clear to those nearby that someone was in grave danger, but still did not choose to help her. Although some of the urban myths surrounding that particular case seem to have been debunked, it is still reported that interventions could have been taken on her behalf. Likewise, interventions could have been taken to aid Mr. Tale-Yax. So perhaps the question is: Why were people so dismissive? I think that Simmel would say that it was a case of blasé attitude. People seem to have been aware of what was going on, but still did nothing; possibly because they felt nothing, which could paint them as immoral – but maybe it isn’t so simple. In traditional societies, people lived or died depending on the willingness of all members of the group to work for the group. In modern societies, however, people are so separated by the multitude of demands on them, even encouraged to be as individualistic and capitalistic as possible, that we lose emotional connections with others – though not strictly due to immorality. In addition, division of labor has actually made it more difficult for us (the every day person, that is) to intervene in any given situation. Granted, in many states across America, there are good-samaritan laws, which allow people to aid others without fear of prosecution, but these can be little assurance that assisting someone will not put us in some sort of danger. Also, we live in a very litigious country – another effect of capitalism and separation from the higher good for the group community. These facts add up to people being so wary and uncertain of other people’s grief, that we become numb, or blasé. People have gotten to the point that they feel it is better to mind their own business, and it is just that attitude that can lead to a case as is featured in the article.

2 thoughts on “Tale-Yax and Genovese”

  1. I wrote about the same comparison, although I did not think of the litigious nature of the country as reason for distancing. I do agree with your assessment, people become numb, they decide to mind their own lives and avoid getting involved with others. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are being immoral. I think your mention of Good Samaritan laws is interesting, it’s an example of society regulating the correct course of action when faced with situations like this. In a sense, this means social dictates have more sway over behavior than moral beliefs. We may morally believe homelessness is a terrible thing, but in practice pass homeless people in the street without helping. This raises an interesting question: when faced with the needs of others, how do societal norms influence our decisions? What happens to us when our moral beliefs differ from our actions?

  2. I really like how you presented this question. I do not know if it is people being immoral. Honestly, I think a lot of it is a fear of getting involved with a stranger’s life and how he or she will be perceived by larger society. I think you are definitely correct in how you say our current society has forced or rather encouraged us to be isolated and a part from one another. Of course all of this contributes to why no one seems to care about anyone until somehow we form these magical relationships, which is amazing that it ever seems to happen at all. It is sad and I wish there was some way everyone could wake up a bit more.

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