Fear of Indifference

Last night my son was attacked by three strangers. Three strangers, fuelled by drugs and alcohol, intent on robbing him of the money they knew was in his cab; indifferent as to whether they took his life in the attempt. He’s OK. Bit bruised, bit shaken, bit ashamed at the success he had fighting them off, when the survival instinct finally kicked in. That’s not what I want to talk about.

What prompted the post, was the fact that the attack occurred in a well lit area of the city. What prompted the post, was the fact that the area was busy with shoppers going about their business. What prompted the post, was the fact that not a single one of them came to his assistance, as his assailants punched and kicked him in the ribs and in the head. What really prompted the post, REALLY prompted the post, was the fact that not a single one of them could even be bothered to call the police.

I understand, completely, why they may all shy away (make that run away, for that is, indeed, what the security footage shows) from intervening on behalf of a stranger. But to not take a moment to consider calling for professional assistance seems so utterly remote from what it is to be human, that it is entirely beyond my comprehension.

Yet, perhaps, given the increasing indifference exhibited in the face of human and animal suffering in our communities, and around the world, I am simply overly naive to believe that, when faced with violence on our own doorstep, we may want to take some action. Any action. But NOTHING at all?!?

Can it really be a nonchalant acceptance of violence as an everyday occurrence? Did they get home without some pang of guilt? Did they sleep soundly, or did they find themselves restless, wondering if the guy they saw attacked tonight survived? What reaction would they like to see from others in the event that they found themselves outnumbered, on the ground, terrified and fearing their own survival?

Tonight, I am tired. More than that, I am afraid. Afraid of the indifference that we, as a species, appear to have embraced. Not just towards violence. Not just towards the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised. Not just towards other species, the planet, our fellow Man. But that greater indifference. The one that removes us from self, denies empathy, and drives us further from the source of what defines our very humanity.

Something has to change.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have found the space to allow them to heal.

About Running Elk

My given native name, Running Elk, was bestowed in 2008 as I took my first steps as a fully fledged Medicine Man of the Zuni tradition. A most unlikely candidate for the role, my journey as a healer began some four years prior. The detour onto the shamanic way was most unexpected, yet has been one of the most rewarding challenges to date.
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31 Responses to Fear of Indifference

  1. Oh, Running Elk, I am so very, very sorry such a thing touched your family and so very, very happy your son is okay. I don’t know where you live but it does not matter. This is nothing new. Many, many years ago, Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York City. People saw. People heard her screams. Yet no one called the police. This incident got a lot of press and was then forgotten. I think things have gotten worse. The violence all over TV, video games, and in movies has made us into a nation of heartless in-humans. I will not say beasts because beasts take care of their own. I know not the answer nor the problem but it is rampant and in a society with privileges such as ours, inexcusable. Please know that all of you are in my prayers. God bless you all. Big hugs and especially to your son, xx ellen

    • Running Elk says:

      Thank you Ellen. Kitty’s story is truly shocking. Somewhere, you’d think, the lesson of that terrible case should have acted as a wake up call. Seems it is easier to ignore the lessons that happen around us all the time, rather than address it in some meaningful way. Guess when it strikes so close to home, it becomes a little too “personal”. xx

  2. So sorry for your son’s experience. It is sad hearing of these non-acts of indifference, especially when someone is covered in blood asking for help or fighting off a rapist, and neighbors ignore it all. I pray more of humanity wakes up and open their hearts.

    • Running Elk says:

      Indeed Julianne. After he fought them off, Peter stumbled into a bar full of people to ask for assistance. The barman called the police, but not one person offered or asked if he was OK. We assume there is safety in numbers (which was why he drove to that location initially) but perhaps we need to re-evaluate that assumption. 😦

  3. tiramit says:

    I feel sorry for you having to face this… catastrophe? You need to allow time to recover, your son too, of course. Best wishes

    • Running Elk says:

      Thanks Tiramit. He’s good – asking for prayers of forgiveness for his attackers. May take me a little longer to get over the wake up call to the mass indifference. I found more humanity, love and care for their fellow man in the slums of Mumbai than was revealed in this incident in a major western city. xx

  4. Eilish Niamh says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you and your son. You’ve said it beautifully: the thing we have to fear is indifference. People believe in the illusion of separateness and because we have forgotten that we are all connected and because we’ve abandoned ourselves, too afraid to live our own lives, swallowing wholesale the incidious notion that apathy will keep us safe, we abandon and devalue and betray everyone around us. Our culture encourages us to be afraid, afraid of all the things that would heal us from what we should actually fear—callousness and separation. I strongly feel if the people in this world saw everyone around us as second selves, no one would stand there and watch someone get asaulted and robbed unless he or she prised disgrace above compassion or cowardice above empathy. Because we seemto have forgotten the human part in human being. I’m glad you’re speaking out, you have every right to be angry and perhaps your words will cause someone to stop and reflect. There are those of us who would stand up for other people, I think there is still hope.

    • Running Elk says:

      Wow. Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts Eilish. You have given me another perspective, and a fuller context to consider. And yes, I feel sure there is still hope. 🙂

  5. Peter says:

    Thanks for this dad, I will move on from this a stronger and wiser person, I think we need to pray for the people that did this to me, im at a loss for words. thanks for your kind words Ellen

  6. alienorajt says:

    Oh, I am so very sorry to hear this ghastliness. How traumatic for all concerned. It is an awful indictment of so-called society – and a terrifying thought that people are so totally unable to offer a hand, or pick up a phone. Love and big hugs to you all. I shall be thinking of you. xxxx

    • Running Elk says:

      Thank you, Ali. It’s kind of shocking beyond expectation, really. We all carry cell phones, so it’s not like we have to go out of our way to find a phone! So sad. xx

      • alienorajt says:

        Yes, exactly; there is NO excuse for walking by on the other side of the road – metaphorical OR real – these days. I do know that your son will be/is wrapped in the warm blanket of a loving family; I also know that a lot of us out here are shocked, distressed and angered on his/your behalf. Hugs, Ali xxx

  7. bert0001 says:

    I read this, and feel very sad …

  8. alienorajt says:

    I have nominated you for a plethora of awards!

  9. I almost hate to say I ‘like’ this post for it reminds me of sad and dreadful things. I sincerely hope yours on recovers well, especially from any mental anguish it has surely caused him. But we do need to hear about these senseless, inhuman doings if only to check up on ourselves to be sure we remain human.

    • Running Elk says:

      Hi. Thanks for stopping by. He is well on the mend, now, thank you. A bit less trusting, but otherwise fairly much as was before the event.
      You know, I think you are right, and I hadn’t considered it quite like that before. The response to his story has been incredibly positive, and if it makes even one person step forward in future, then it can only be a good thing. 🙂

  10. chrissyfaery36 says:

    Oh gosh, that’s awful! I’m so sorry that you and your son have had to go through this!

    It reminds me of something that happened where I live a few months back. A 12 year old girl was punched in the face and had her bike stolen when she was on her way to school. It happened in the middle of our busy town centre, and not a single person went to help her or even comfort her. I find the way society is going very concerning! 😦

    I hope your son recovers soon, Love Chrissy xx

    • Running Elk says:

      Thank you, Chrissy.
      He is doing very well now. Still a bit concerned when he has to pick up / drop off in certain areas, but at least he is back working. Kind of given him a whole new, spiritual perspective to living, too. 🙂
      It is quite incredible, really. I can almost understand the case where an adult is concerned, but for nobody to go to the aid of a 12 year old,is unforgivable. 😦

      • chrissyfaery36 says:

        Aw, I’m so glad to hear he’s doing okay! It must have been such a shock! I agree, not helping anyone who’s being attacked is just terrible xxx

  11. ksbeth says:

    i am so sorry, for your son, and for you, and for any others this has affected. it is a very sad state of affairs. hard to imagine right now, but there really are some good people out there. glad he is okay. best, ) beth

    • Running Elk says:

      Hi Beth. Thanks for stopping by. It is indeed true, that there are many good folks out there. I think I was feeling particularly peeved at the lack of them in that place that night when I wrote the piece… 🙂

  12. windhound says:

    Your son has amazing instinctual behaviour which can be trusted not only by him but also by those around him.. The civilising of society sounds like a good thing but it is our instincts that always make it possible for us to survive the unexpected. Following rules and regulations may make us “good” citizens but it is our contact with our selves that make us good people. All these people who did nothing will carry fear with them always, mistrusting not only others but themselves. Your son on the other hand has confirmed his desire to live as a real human being. He has our greatest respect.

    • Running Elk says:

      Thank you Windhound. Yes, he certainly found something within himself that night that went beyond logical processes. Funny, too, he feels a much better person for having gone through the experience.

  13. windhound says:

    I can understand that. Trusting that we have untapped resources is a powerful knowing.

  14. Pete Hulme says:

    Sadly, there are so many more examples of this kind of inhumanity than there are of altruistic heroism. Zimbardo wrote his book ‘The Lucifer Effect’ partly to argue that we need to be trained in how to actively resist such brutalities and injustices. We are not doing enough as parents, as communities, as a society, to learn together how to raise ourselves to a higher level. It won’t come of its own accord, it seems, for most of us at least. Thank heavens your son is OK.

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