Nowadays, it seems normal to hear stories about people who fail to give assistance to a person in danger. Just recently a case was reported in the press about a young girl in Hamburg who was raped on a train in broad daylight. She was taking the train home to a suburb of the city. Other passengers were on the train, now guess what they stated later? They thought the girl was having a quarrel with her boyfriend. That is just one of many more cases that made headlines in the press.
However, the only conclusion we can draw from these facts is that modern society makes people lose their sense of responsibility. It is a fact that today’s society stresses strong individualism. It is everybody for his own. To achieve success, honour and acknowledgement a person does not need any help or support. What I want to stress is that every member of our society does things in his or her own way without being influenced by other people. Moreover, the high unemployment often results in fierce competition, which creates envy, sometimes even hate, in the depths of a human being.
Social differences are growing, resulting in interpersonal aggression and social indifference. It is no wonder that human relationships are threatened with complete breakdown. Financial success has top priority on the list of people’s values. At least, it is everyone for himself, so why be concerned about someone else’s problems? Furthermore, as a result of the great influence of the mass media people are becoming more and more isolated. Today it is a global phenomenon that has revolutionised the way individuals communicate with each other and receive information.
It is becoming increasingly modern for people to sit in front of the television instead of doing things together or going back to hobbies and activities which one can share with others. This all ends up in a vicious lack of communication, if the worst comes to the worst in an inescapable loneliness. In the daytime people are working; in the evening we withdraw to our flats, spending the rest of the evening in front of the TV. In this context, the concrete situation at the workplace supports the statement that the people of today no longer feel a sense of responsibility.
New technology creates jobs which do not require any sort of face-to-face communication. Undoubtedly, sitting in front of the computer the whole day as well as operating a noisy machine is part of the mindless daily grind. In many cases, nobody knows their coworkers. Prejudices arise. Finally, there is the argument that society has to struggle with a constantly rising crime-rate. Helping someone else in a precarious situation may endanger one’s own life. For instance, crime coverage seems to dominate the available news time. Politics, education, the environment and business average just seconds of attention.
This overabundance of crime and violence on TV news inflates the public’s fears for their personal safety. It is clear that images have immense power to influence behaviour, for good or ill. In addition, just because of this look-away society, as I am calling it now, people do not like to show any emotions in public, more than ever for the reason that they do not want to draw attention to themselves. In other words, they just want to preclude making a fool of themselves. In conclusion, it seems to me that people are no less concerned about others than at any other time.
There are numerous cases of people helping others in times of need. However, such cases do not satisfy the demand for sensationalism, which is as much part of human nature as aggression is a constant factor in human behaviour. On a local level one might encounter people who volunteer to take care of the elderly or disabled. But, unfortunately, these people are seldom models because today’s people tend to ignore their fellow human beings who are in need of help and to simply look away. On the whole, selfishness and egocentric behaviour are part of human nature as much as generosity and public-spiritedness are part of it.