Bystanders and the Disruption of Society
Society is functional only if we help each other. If everybody lived only for themselves, then people would starve, there would be constant fighting, very few would be happy. This is something we all learn when we are very young. Whether or not it is a human instinct to help your neighbor, it is constantly taught and is an observable necessity, especially to someone eighteen years old. David Cash does not have an excuse for ignoring his responsibility to help defenseless Sherrice Iverson. Despite him admitting that he has been called a “textbook sociopath” (video from class), Cash’s mental state did not hinder him from understanding that his friend Jeremy’s actions would harm another, therefore he was still tied to his civil obligation to help Sherrice. There is a difference between those who are incapable of helping others and those who simply do not want to.
The New York Times’ “The Trick to Acting Heroically” describes how many “good samaritans” feel an instinct to help others in danger rather than having assessed the situation and decided to help. “Accidents and Crime Scenes” in Everyday Altruism describes a contradicting motivation when Crispin McKay, who had saved a woman who was shot after he heard a radio call about the situation, explained his hesitation to go help her and only went after he thought about his moral obligations, realizing how he would want his family to be helped. His account displays a more logical outlook on the bystander issue, rather than just having followed a “gut instinct,” and assists the argument that David Cash, who may have no such thing as “gut instinct” still has the obligation to help others.
People pay taxes in order to keep society running. Some may view it as a moral requirement to help everybody in the country and some might just pay them to avoid being sent to prison. Through either motivation, taxes are collected. Bystanders who help others are also necessary to keep society running. This can be viewed as a moral instinct or an action that has to be done to avoid chaos in society. The issue with Cash’s case was that inaction had no legal consequence, and Cash was also seemingly incapable of having moral obligations. In effect, Sherrice Iverson was raped and murdered. This social disruption could have been avoided had there been a heavy consequence for passivity.
Just as all Americans always have an obligation to pay taxes, ignoring those whose income makes them exempt, everybody always has an obligation to stand up for others, excluding some like the handicapped if the situation is physical. People have to help others otherwise our society will fall apart. In this way it does not matter what you perceive as “wrong,” but merely what is beneficial versus what is detrimental. “The Trick to Acting Heroically” explains how good deeds lead to trustworthiness and is mutually beneficial. No one wants to live in a world where the attitude is “everyone for themselves.” Even if it is somewhat selfish, helping others often ensures that help will come back around. This is the attitude that should be encouraged.
I agree with 239bid0073 in that many, many things should have outweighed Cash’s decision of inaction: how it would affect Sherrice, her family, and his future. I did not address these specific considerations because I just assumed that Cash did think about them and merely did not care. I completely agree with you that he is equally guilty for her murder for not standing up. Killers are punished for having no morals and acting in accordance, but people like Cash also need to be punished for having no morals and allowing a killer to persist.
I also agree very much with alberic25 that the article about people being bystanders and recording a fire on their phones rather than helping is significantly less unethical than Cash’s decision to completely ignore Sherrice’s rape and murder. Cash did much more, he actively continued to go around to casinos and school with a murderer. His actions are what make the world significantly more scary.