According to Rousseau, human instinct has always been to help one another in times of distress or injury.
We see somebody hurt or in trouble and instead of looking on we attempt to help them and make sure they are safe. This is the ‘empathy’ that most people feel by nature.
But in shocking scenes from China this week, we saw that this is not always the case.
A two-year-old girl named Wang Yue died after being run over by a van, which immediately drove off. Even worse, her legs were again ran over by a motorcyclist.
Following this, 18 passersby did nothing to help the girl.
By the time a passerby finally moved Wang Yue she was already in a fatal state. She was taken to hospital but doctors could not help her.
The drivers of the van and motorcycle have been arrested and are awaiting charge.
I do have to ask how so many people passing by did nothing to help this girl. How could such an appalling lack of compassion on so many people’s part take place?
One suggestion is that this is because of an incident that happened in Nanjing, in the Jiangsu Province of Eastern China in 2006.
A pedestrian had fallen over on the side of the road and seeing this a woman helped her up and took her to hospital.
But in a surprising twist a judge ordered the woman to compensate the pedestrian who had fallen over because he had helped this woman to a hospital.
Do I really need to say anything else? Well yes, as just reading this and even watching the girl being run over, which was caught on camera, tells of a truly sad story.
The outrage in China after this incident has shown that there are people in China who do actually care.
A Chinese social networking site generated over 4.4million comments after the story broke through a Chinese newsfeed.
But many of the tweets seemed to confirm that China has lost its moral consciousness and a campaign has been setup titled ‘Please Stop Apathy’.
There are so many difficult situations going on across the world at the minute but seeing this tragedy in China has been truly depressing.
Could such a thing happen in the UK?
It seems unlikely, particularly when the opposite could be enforced by law. When Jamie Bulger was snatched and brutally killed by two ten-year-olds in 1993, there were attempts to prosecute those who had seen some of the events unfolding without taking action. But the case fell through.
Given the recent ‘mucking in’ attitude of those who came out to clear up after the riots, you would like think we live in a community that would always help those in need.
But by the same token, the riots themselves are a symbol of a fractured nation. If so many came out to smash up people’s shops, would the same people help those who were in need?