By Maya E. Rudolph
In an age where surveillance videos serve as a kind of documentary and internet gossip supercedes mainstream news cycles, the idea of tragedy is spun into a new place and time.
Several weeks ago, a surveillance camera in Foshan’s Guangfo Hardware Market captured an incident wherein a small van ran over a two-year-old child left roaming alone in the market. The footage, now viewed by millions on youku and other video-sharing sites, has incited a national uproar and, for many Chinese, something of an identity crisis. The video not only graphically documents the gruesome hit and run, but the footage also reveals the apparent apathy of numerous passersby subsequently ignoring the injured child on the ground. After being hit, two-year-old Yue Yue lay as the passed-over object of little pause by eighteen workers, shoppers, a mother and child, and an additional truck that crushed her feet. Not until a trash-collecting ayi encountered the child was help sought and Yue Yue rushed to a local hospital, where her condition is unknown.
The video’s stark presentation of the hit and run and ensuing parade of indifference is shocking to behold and has now inspired outrage and questioning – of both social responsibility and of an existential, moral depth – on the part of Chinese netizens and beyond. On one hand, the hit and run has unleashed a debate on the ethical fabric of Chinese society, a kind of national “soul-searching” that begs at the emotional “numbing” of Chinese citizens. But the practical concerns of involving oneself in such a loaded situation have also surfaced in defense of the passersby. The threat of court corruption, false accusations, and complicated legal procedures may have deterred those who declined to help the child. In a recent article for The Guardian, Tania Branigan cites a netizen who admitted he’d not have offered assistance if given the opportunity, his pragmatism outweighing popular reactions of pathos and horror:
“Would you be willing to throw your entire family’s savings into the endless whirlpool of accident compensation? Aren’t you afraid of being put into jail as the perpetrator? Have you ever considered that your whole family could lose happiness only because you wanted to be a great soul?’” he wrote.
In the film Disorder, Huang Weikai’s 2009 digital documentary collage, the action splices in and out of crime and punishment, malaise and passion in contemporary Guangzhou. (more…)