2-year-old Yueyue’s untimely and tragic death has struck the nation and the world. It is unthinkable that there are people out there who can casually stroll by a bleeding body–not to mention a young child–and not do anything about it. It is also most bizarre that two cars that likely avoid large rocks and potholes normally, somehow did not see a walking child.

At first, yes, I too dropped my jaw and was near tears in horror at the indifference of the 18 passers-by , but then I remembered that fear and selfishness proceed helping others in this country (in many cases, anyhow). However, I also remind myself that there is greater context to why people behave this way. It is much deeper and more complex than just heartlessness and indifference.

In a conversation with my mom, she told me that many people are scared to help others because they literally cannot afford it. (This is possibly why in a news clip you might have seen, one of the drivers that ran over Yueyue talks about money.)  There are many cases where innocent strangers help victims of accidents but are blamed nonetheless for their money. According to my dad, for a while, it was even common for people to stick out their feet to be run over by cars so that the victim could gain a small profit. When hospital bills are outrageously high for people who can barely afford to feed their families, well, I guess I can understand why a passer-by would be unwilling to help someone else if they can’t afford the risk of being responsible for the victim.

Where do morals come into the picture, then? I’m not sure I have an answer. Although, it is possible that the frequency of good deeds going punished in this country might have something to do with it.

Adults tell me all the time to not be too nice to people nor to react to obnoxious and infuriating people as both may incur unwanted consequences such as being taken advantage of or stabbing, respectively of course. In the many years that I’ve been visiting China, I have seen countless accidents, and never do I see people helping people–not even the police.

So, where have my people gone wrong? No, no, not wrong, just misguided. It’s all in the history, and quite recent history I’d say. History that has advanced so quickly in the past few decades it has forced its way into an international playing field where it’s all about $$$$$. Everything is about money nowadays–food, driving, friendship, love, education. Where did all that money come from? And so quickly? And what has come of that money? A cut-throat society, not on purpose, but consequentially. Therefore, in times of need, if you won’t help me, then why should I help the next person? It’s a bitter never-ending cycle that I wish would end so that tragedies like Yueyue’s never happen again. Ever.

I’m not sure if I’m making any sense here, but I’m trying to make a point that those passers-by were indifferent for a reason that can be explained by placing their situations in context, and not just pointing our fingers at the “degenerative” Chinese society. There are too many reasons that these people just walked by Yueyue, and I think fear is one of them even if it doesn’t appear so on the surface.

You don’t have to agree with me, and may continue to think that those passers-by were simply heartless beings, but before passing judgement on Chinese people as a whole, I think everyone should take a look at this post. (It is a leftist blog called “The Maoist Rebel News,” but it makes excellent points even if you don’t agree with them politically.)

Finally, I think Yueyue’s undeserved death is a much needed, though heartbreaking and unforgivable, reminder to Chinese society–and the world, actually, because this could have happened anywhere–that we are all human beings and it is our duty as fellow human beings to help other human beings in times of distress no matter what the situation. And we must rid our expectations of reward and lend a hand non-conditionally because that is the only way to overcome our current state of fear, greed and indifference. As unlikely as that may sound, I believe it will happen some day. Slowly but surely.


12 Comments on “YueYue”

  1. I found this death incredibly tragic in terms of the waste of life in someone so young, and the manner in which it happened.
    I agree too that there is a complacantcy in human nature to avoid / ignore situations that may provoke harm to ones ‘me first’ attitude, and I find myself feeling racked with guilt with regards to the hopeless nature of the CCTV footage, for it’s purpose, it didn’t protect the life of 1 small child.

    • E. He says:

      That always gets to me, too, how hopeless that footage might be, and how people, including myself, react to horrifying situations like these but forget about it the next day. I don’t know if I actually agree with what I’m about to say, but perhaps that one small life can save a lot of lives later? I tend to be optimistic or just naive, but since there are so many Chinese people angry at the 18 passersby maybe it is going to make a difference in how this society will be run, even tomorrow. Who knows… it’s just all SO SAD!

  2. Han says:

    I’m really glad you wrote about this, because I just saw this horrific video for the first time last night and I’m still having flashbacks about it.

    You make a good point that those people who walked by had a very strong motivation for pretending they didn’t see what they saw. The question of what created that motivation is a huge one, which I don’t know how to answer. Maybe it’s the breakneck pace at which China has been developing, maybe it’s the resulting social upheaval, maybe it’s all the history before all that, but really I don’t know.

    Though I don’t know what caused that motivation, I can understand a little bit of what that motivation itself feels like. And that’s very unsettling. It feels a bit like the times in this city when I’ve walked by people lying on the street, assuming they’d rather be ignored. It’s a feeling of confusion, mixed in with a small tug of empathy which is swiftly buried under a pile of rationalization and routine.

    As we watch the video, we see a group of 20 people. But each of those people didn’t see themselves in a group. They were passing by one at a time, each confronted with a private dilemma that they could just as easily push out of their mind. For them, there were no witnesses.

    If any of these “heartless” bystanders could watch this video, they may well feel the same sickening outrage. But the third-person omniscient of the video is not the perspective they had when they passed YueYue dying on that narrow street.

    I imagine God-fearing folks keep themselves in check by imagining the Almighty’s “third-person omniscient” weighing their every choice. I’m not a believer, but I do agree it’s both wise and hard to consciously widen my own POV, and take that third-person witness into my own life.

    • E. He says:

      I COMPLETELY agree with you, and have also felt that confusion about whether or not to help someone. In cases like these, it’s all about perspective, like you said. That’s why people ask questions like, “What would you have done?” Well, if any of us had been in that situation I think we all would’ve thought twice before doing something. It’s a sad thing that humans are conditioned to rationalize and follow routine, but it’s inevitable in a society like ours.

      I was thinking last night about the concept of “survival of the fittest.” In China, where survival=money=power, everything comes down to money. If you don’t have money, you can’t thrive in this country in this modernized era. We’re stuck between 50s Communism and 21st century Capitalism/Modernization/Materialism, and it’s pulling society apart. For one, the youth, at least in a big city like Beijing, don’t respect their elders like they used to (I have seen several young women fight with their elders, something I would never have seen just 4 years ago). Besides the dwindling of filial piety, other traditions are also becoming lost. So, my point is, if you don’t do EVERYTHING in your power like yell, kick, and steal, there’s a chance you won’t make it. Therefore, maybe Darwin was right, only the fittest can survive in this dog-eat-dog world. As for those 18 passers-by, they were just doing what I think most people would do–keeping their heads up pretending not to see other people suffering. People do it all the time, and on a larger scale. I don’t think it’s right, but it’s just reality.

      • Han says:

        You have such a cool opportunity right now in Beijing to witness the day-to-day effects of these huge social changes.

        So much changes. Sometimes it completely boggles my mind that my parents experienced the Cultural Revolution. It’s not so many years ago, but they had such a fundamentally different young adulthood. The things that they and all their friends experienced as a matter of course, I can’t imagine happening in my life. I have no context to imagine what it’s like for my government to ship me off to the sticks for all my formative years.

        Which is to say, my sense of agency, my beliefs about my own power and what I can do in my life–these are hugely dependent on the generation I was born, and the choices my parents made. A humbling thought!

      • E. He says:

        So many visible changes, from young folks not getting up from their seat for their elders to visibly cleaner streets to 7-star hotels, China is something new and shiny, on the outside. I’m shocked too, that my parents, like yours, lived through the Cultural Revolution because to see them now–healthy and well-off–, and me, having grown up in Brookline, MA, it’s unimaginable. There’s so much family history I have to dig up (one of the main reasons I decided to move here).

        I’m actually reading this book right now that a friend gave me SO many years ago called Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China written by the daughter of a Communist revolutionary. It’s a good thing that I picked it up now that I’m older and living in China because I can use the book as reference, though life now is obviously and drastically different than in, say, 1948. Perhaps you have already read it, but in case you haven’t, you should add it to your reading list! I’m learning so much and I’m only on page 130 or so!

        One last thing, thanks for reading my blog and commenting, Han! Any thoughts on returning to China yourself?

      • Han says:

        I added Wild Swans to my reading list. It sounds interesting!

        I love reading your blog! I subscribe, so I’ve been following pretty closely. And yes, you totally grossed me out with the recent post of the grub-picking dude. The funny thing is that the plate of grubs didn’t really faze me. It was just gross seeing where they came out from.

        I will visit China again. But as I get older, it gets trickier to negotiate the dynamics of seeing my extended family. But I will visit eventually, I have no doubt.

      • E. He says:

        Woohoo! Thanks, Han, for following 🙂

        And yes, I know what you mean about relatives. It was hard enough trying to explain that I was a vegetarian (for only a year) which means I DO NOT (did not) EAT MEAT! Anyhow, that’s inconsequential because I eat meat now, obviously.

  3. Michael says:

    It’s sad isn’t? But that is the reality. Thanks for sharing.

  4. alvintobias says:

    If only Jacky Chan can appear somewhere from that video, he will definitely rush that little angel to the hospital while Jet Lee is chasing that truck. I know a lot of good Chinese people here in my country and that 20 heartless people will never change my views on how good Chinese people are. So sad…..

    • E. He says:

      If only life were like the movies (and you named 2 of my favorite actors, especially Jackie Chan and I’m not ashamed to admit it). I’m glad about what you said, that this incident won’t change how you see Chinese people because too often things like this turn into a reason for racism and hatred, which is totally unnecessary and unfair.

      Thank you for reading my thoughts Alvin! or is it Tobias!

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