Originally posted by
carrots on September 09, 2019 15:36
Cash doesn’t seem to regret his actions at all and is not willing to recognize that he could have done something differently. He has convinced himself that his body language was enough to stop Jeremy from committing such a horrible act. This is different from the story of the “Nightmare on the 36 bus” as Auclair deeply regretted not doing anything to help the young boy who was getting punched by his father. Cash should have been governed by a moral compass that guides people’s decisions throughout their lives. That is why so many people at his college protested his actions, saying he had a responsibility in that situation to do something. I think that Cash’s statement about his clear body language is to only lift the guilt he may feel about leaving the bathroom when he could have saved the girl's life.
We have an obligation to always act when someone is in need and we have the ability to help them. This is obviously easier said than done, as people don’t know how they are going to react when presented with difficult situations. Is it an instinct reaction to other people in need, as Erez Yoell and David Rand suggest in their article “The Trick to Acting Heroically.” They say that people just react instinctively without thinking because of an intrinsic want to help others. If this is the case why do some people rush towards trouble while others just watch as others struggle.
When someone falls down on the street is there always going to be someone to help them up or will people just expect others to do it. People should not just wait to see if someone else will step up to help, but take the step to do it themselves. As Deborah Stone says in her book The Samaritan’s Dilemma, “When people believe they are supposed to help or when they think that they are the only person available to help someone else, they are very likely to respond.”
I think in most cases this is true, that if people are presented with a situation in which they can save someone from some type of danger, they will. But somehow this isn't the case with David Cash who said he didn't want to witness something which he had the ability to stop. Maybe there is something different about how Cash was brought up that made him react the way he did, or maybe he was just so scared or the situation that he didn't do anything.
The rape and murder of Sherrice Iverson thoroughly exposes flaws in human character and shows us the complexity of every action we take as intelligent beings. Through this tragedy we understand a darker but just as common aspect of human behavior, the bystander effect. What carrots, gravity, loveicecream, and others have pointed out is that the burden of responsibility lies on the bystander a little if not just as much as the perpetrator. However I want to try to reveal another aspect to try and explain why David acted as he did.
The bystander effect was at play here, there’s no doubt about that. However the reasoning behind why it happens, and the opposite, why good Samaritans often do step up, have some differences across the board. In the “Samaritan’s Dilemma” by Deborah Stone, she suggests that there is a “strength of altruism in the human psyche,” essentially saying that helping others is part of deep human nature. I agree with this, based on the stories of the single man in “The Bystander Effect in the Cellphone Age;” the two towing shop workers from the the Deborah excerpt; and countless other stories you and I hear about everyday in the news, this statement holds true for the most part. However one needs to consider the effect of friendships in the whole situation.
In “The Trick to Acting Heroically” by Erez Yoeli and David Rand, they also agree with Deborah, saying that it is human instinct to help others. However, they further explain that it may be caused by long periods of conditioning where one sees a net gain for themselves from selflessly helping others and continuing a valued relationship. “The model shows that the tendency to help without looking wins out when… the long-term relationship is valuable to Player 1.” Now consider this: David, acting on the same instinct that causes “good Samaritan” behaviors in most people, wants to help his friend not get in trouble so he decides to “selflessly” help Jeremy by keeping shut about the whole matter. In fact David even says in his interview on the radio show “I know as his best friend that he had potential.” Instead of acting on the correct ethics that most of society accepts, he acted on his own morals which just so happened to place protecting his friend above protecting a stranger, even one who is being threatened.
Carrots brings up a good question: “people just react instinctively without thinking because of an intrinsic want to help others. If this is the case why do some people rush towards trouble while others just watch as others struggle?” I believe the answer does lie in the fact that there was a deep connection between David and Jeremy; they were best friends. In the MBTA story about the 8-year-old, the eyewitness Auclair later regrets his decision to not help because he was a complete stranger in the situation and had no connection to the perpetrator. It was only after that he truly regretted acting against his “good Samaritan” instinct. This wasn’t the case with David. He was best friends with Jeremy and much like the experiment Ms. Freeman conducted today, not many of us would tell the authorities when we know that our friend had done something bad (granted-David was an extreme case of this unwillingness to “snitch”). Thus he sided with his friend and perpetrator and not the victim and his own “good Samaritan” instincts.
I wholeheartedly agree with loveisicecream’s statement that “Cash’s actions should have been governed by the fact that someone’s life was at stake.” As cliche as it sounds, human life is the most important thing in any situation and I think that this ideology applies to many people’s morals, even on an instinctive level. David should have thought of the broader context and been influenced to make a decision purely on the fact that a human life was at stake and that his friend was clearly in the wrong. If David had maybe thought less of Jeremy as his friend and taken a more objective view on the entire setting, he might have reported it right then and there. However friendships are a strong bond and they definitely imply certain loyalty, to a fault. David’s actions were governed by his friendship when they should have been governed by the possibility of loss of life in this situation.
However I don’t agree with loveisicecream’s statement: “The obligation of a person who witnesses a wrong is to do everything in their power to make the situation better.” Considering that I value human life over anything, doing anything you can to try to help someone can get YOU and that person killed. This is why in First Aid training by the Red Cross and other institutions, the first step is to always make sure that the environment is safe and that you can safely go in to help. Because of this I don’t think you should do everything in your power but everything you can do within the bounds of your personal safety.
Everyone has an obligation to act when someone’s life is in danger, but they should do so while maintaining their own safety. These rules definitely vary depending on the severity of the crime. Depending on personal morals, one may act when there’s a lot of money involved or if animals’ lives are affected etc. However the fundamental rule should be that one MUST do something when a human life is in danger.
The laws regarding taking action in these situations are fairly vague in Massachusetts. There are Good Samaritan Laws in place granting protection to those who try to help victims and this encourages people to act. However there is only a legal obligation to “report but not to aid.” The duty to report is also within bounds, as long as it does not lead the person who reports it to be in any danger or threat of harm. Like Ms. Freeman said, it is very vague at best.
People should only be witnesses when it is dangerous for themselves to take any action in trying to help solve the problem. However factors such as time, laziness, or friendships should not stand in the way of helping to possibly save a life or report a life/death crime. These rules stand for life/death situations in my opinion. Any other issue should be dealt with based on personal morals of how serious it is and if it will cause anybody harm.
David and Jeremy truly had a toxic friendship that went beyond the bounds of corrupting not just each other, but also killing a 7 year old child.