Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The ugly truth.

My friend witnessed a robbery last night.

Outside college, an Indian girl was pushed down on the road, and her car was driven off by another Indian man. My friend was at a short distance of perhaps 30m away, and initially thought the whole thing was some bad prank or perhaps a quarrel. Only after another nearby group of collegemates started shouting and giving chase did my friend realise the gravity of what had just occurred.

The police arrived shortly after. My friend was not questioned, and left soon after.

Last night itself, I was walking towards my car in the shopping mall. The moment I stepped into the carpark, I was struck with sudden fear, remembering the many recent kidnapping/robbery cases that have happened to females in such places.

But after I pulled away from the carpark safely, I stopped thinking of how I could avoid being a victim (walk fast, be alert and ready to scream) and what I would do if someone tried to kidnap/rob me (scream, give them belongings if they want them and just RUN AWAY). Instead, I started thinking about what I would do if I was a witness to a such a crime.

If I saw a snatch theft/robbery happening, would I give chase?

Would I stop to help the poor victim? Especially if I was not in a hurry?

Sadly, I could not give myself a satisfactory answer. Which shows that I am at heart, a truly ugly Malaysian, that would never stop to aid a passerby, should it greatly inconvenience me.

I would be too frightened to give chase to any robber. I would be unwilling to call the cops, not just because it would be too late for them to stop the robbers, but also because I didn't want to be inconvenienced by all the relevant questioning that I'd have to go through. And I might go console the victim, but only if there was noone else doing so, and the victim looked completely harmless.

I would likely be that horrible person that just stands by in shock, then probably offer up a prayer for the poor victim, then go on my merry way with a huge story to share with my family tonight, with close friends on whatsapp, and with not so close friends in facebook.

As much as I used to see myself as an all-round decent person, I am shocked to find out that I am not. I may stop to give directions to the lost stranger, but aid them in their greatest hour of distress I don't think I would.

I am selfish and impatient.

And at this very moment, I am making loud disapproving noises because a lady next to me on the train keeps smacking her lips loudly nonstop while eating sour candy. I won't go as far as to tell her off, but I am giving her angry glares and continuing making disapproving noises.

But I digress. I literally would give up everything if a family member or close friend were in need, and I used to think that made me a nice person.

"Treat others like how you want others to treat you". This means we should be kind to everyone, right? Especially these poor victims, because you wouldn't want everyone to be unhelpful when you've just been through a traumatic experience, right?

But then again, the world is not a straightforward, safe place. What if the "victim" was a con artist, and the whole thing was an elaborate scam?

We read about con artists that prey on the sympathies of women; they aim to lower their target's defences when she is unsuspectingly engrossed in the effort to help the "victim", that appears helpless and unfortunate. Who could forget those old over-circulated emails that told us to never go outside at night when hearing a crying baby, or to stop your car to help a stranger by the roadside?

So what if we end up the victims of one of these schemes? We then circulate it on facebook, telling others not to be silly enough to aid robbery victims, because they will pickpocket you etc, and you would be better off if you just minded your own business. Then the world becomes an even more unfriendly and unhelpful place to live in.

In the alternate scenarios of the hapless bystander and victimised helper, who can truly say either was right or wrong?

My friend did not help the victim yesterday. I don't know what I would have done, but I doubt I would have provided much help myself. And this depresses me, because I no longer believe I am a nice person.

But I do hope that should the occasion arise one day, I will rise up to the challenge to be selfless. Even if I might end up the victim in the end.

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