October 25, 2011
Cold-Hearted Dragon

The Guardian is featuring this excellent commentary on the toddler tragedy in China. When it first came up, I was immediately reminded of the Kitty Genovese case, and I think the incidents have more in common than would at first appear.

At root, the problem is not Chinese, or American, or Italian, or New Yorker, or any of those things. It's human nature in general. We care for those we know, and won't for those we don't. This social construct works quite well when the mobility of society is low. Unfortunately this reflexive nature breaks down when mobility is high.

This is not new at all, and goes a long way toward explaining why, for instance, immigrant communities tend to have high crime. They don't know the people around them, and have no incentive to play by their rules. It also explains why native communities tend to ostracize these selfsame immigrants: they don't play by our rules, so why should we treat them with respect?

It's not completely clear what the solution ultimately is. Attempts to force the issue via laws doesn't work, all too often violently. Trying to brow-beat everyone into getting along by respecting "diversity" fails just as badly. It's likely there simply is no easy solution, and each society will have to figure it out on its own. Unfortunately that means stabbed women will continue to bleed out in the stairwells of full apartment buildings, and toddlers will continue to slowly die in crowded streets.

But if we keep talking about it, if we all keep trying, if we all remember, maybe fewer of them will the next time. Maybe one day, none of them will.

Posted by scott at October 25, 2011 03:08 PM

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