“. . . The Love of Many Shall Wax Cold”*

Wang Yue, a toddler from China who had wandered away from her mother, was struck twice by one truck and then as she writhed in pain, struck again by another truck. As this little girl lay injured on the street, 18 people, over a period of 7 minutes, walked or rode their bicycles by, without stopping to help. Finally, an elderly scrap peddler stopped, dragged her to safety, and then found her mother. Little Yue-yue, as she has come to be known, clung to life via intubation for a few days and then left this life.

Many have offered explanations. None come close to a justification. One explanation is that Chinese culture teaches children to avoid trouble and not get involved. Rescuing a two-year-old tot is not the stuff of gang activity. But, others maintain, there is fear of liability. There have been a numbers of cases in China in which those who have helped the injured have been held liable for causing the injuries through the application of this brilliant analysis: Why else would you help someone if you didn’t hurt them in the first place? There are a few missing links between the post hoc and the propter hoc on that one. Some lawyers in China have uttered “I told you so’s” as they advocate for liability protections with Good Samaritan laws such as those in the United States. Their point is how can you expect anyone to help a tot unless they are guaranteed immunity in case they make a mistake.

A Chinese think tank researcher may offer the best explanation, “The most important thing for Chinese people right now is making money and pursuing their own interests. Our education system doesn’t teach ethics.”+
Funny, we didn’t use to need to be taught ethics in order to help a fellow traveler in this life. We once understood that you hopped off your hoss, wagon, Model-T, Segway, or whatever and rendered aid. And once upon a time, those to whom we rendered aid understood that it was poor form to sue someone who did his best to try and help you when you needed it. Sadly, those days disappeared, maybe with the wagon, and we turned to laws to resolve our duties and give us immunity as a condition precedent to helping. The injured sued the Good Samaritans, so we passed Good Samaritan immunity laws. But, as in China, we were really not sure how much immunity we had or when it applied, so we stopped stopping. Then came the laws making it a crime not to stop to help, and we go on in circles as we try to codify the simple notion of, “Stop and help because it’s the right thing to do.” Laws trip over themselves. And a toddler who needs help is ignored. Laws can never replicate ethical obligations. The former spring from fear of liability; the latter come from the heart.

The video that shows the passers-by ignoring Little Yue-yue is painful to watch for so many reasons. But a pain that cannot be remedied comes from the video’s graphic depiction of what we have become. The tragic tale of Little Yue-yue tale is the Kitty Genovese story of our time. We are indifferent, cold . . . islands of economic success, all destined to be left by the side of the road at some point in our hour of need because we have put our trust and faith in laws that clumsily attempt to define our ethical responsibilities. How our hearts have waxed cold!

*Matthew 24:12
Josh Chin, “Toddler’s Death Stirs Ire in China,” Wall Street Journal, October 22-23, 2011.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
This entry was posted in News and Events. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.