The Tragedy of Apathy

Posted by M ws On Thursday, July 12, 2012 0 comments
Did you know that seven people walked past snatch theft victim Tan Kim Chuan, 60, without lifting a finger to help her as she lay unconscious on the road with a cracked skull at the Rifle Range flats in Penang?

According to The Star, CCTV footage showed her lying on the road for about seven minutes (see sequence of events HERE).

Nine hours later, Kim Chuan, who fell and knocked her head on the road in the 6.02am incident on two days ago (Tuesday) succumbed to her injuries at the Penang Hospital.

The victim was a widow who had just moved into the Rifle Range flats two weeks ago. She was walking alone near Block J of the flats when her handbag was snatched by a motorcyclist.

At about 6.10am, three good Samaritans (including airport cargo worker B. Saravana Kumar, 37, and fellow flat resident, Khoo Ean Ooi, 57) lifted her to the side of the road and called for an ambulance.

Another Rifle Range resident who only wanted to be known as Beh, 77, who was captured on the CCTV footage walking away from the victim, said he had intended to help, but was too frail. (Click here for the report on the good Samaritans)

This incident, which echoes the Parable of the Good Samaritan is but one example of how many in modern society have forgotten how to care, to love and to help others.

A similar event happened to the mother of one of my former students, C.C.S., Regional Manager of a Foundation in another Asian city. She was walking along Leandros Lane in front of Bellisa View when two motor-cyclists came close to hear and tried to snatch her handbag. As she had her American passport with her, she struggled and hung on to her bag. Tragically, the pillion rider took off his helmet and smashed her head with it a few times. She fell to the ground and hit her head and was bleeding badly. Passers-by rushed her to the hospital where she passed away a few hours later without regaining consciousness. A tragic death, C.C.S. never got to see his mom who never got the chance to attend his graduation. :-(

What has happened to Malaysian society? Why are many lacking in compassion and in sympathy for the less fortunate or those in need? Do we have the desire to develop civic consciousness and to help? What good is it if we enjoy material success and have forgotten how to feel, to care and to help those in need? We would be worse than animals.

When there is an accident, people usually surround the victims because:
  • they want to note the number plate of the vehicles involved in the accident so that they can buy those numbers at the four-digit centres
  • they are touts working for tow-truck companies
  • some unscruplous ones try to steal stuff from the victims...my friend's daughter who had a very bad accident lost her phone, handbag and even her designer shoes!!!!
How many really reach out to help because they care? Of course there are those who do help and God bless their kind hearts but the incident at Rifle Range is testimony of how cold, unfeeling and apathetic is our society today.

The focus on self seems to surpass the collective good of society and this can be seen in:
  • the way many (especially Penangites) park their car haphazardly in no-parking zones
  • how some honk and/or weave their way through traffic just so they can reach their destination in time
  • how many cut queue when trying to board the plane, especially for Air Asia flights
  • how some declare their political apathy or unwillingness to vote just because they do not think their votes can make any difference
  • the way some practise double standards when they persist in law-breaking behavious
  • how littering is still a problem 
  • how some rather do good to themselves than to others in a show of selfishness
  • how many just do not care about others and are reluctant to lift a finger to help, even neighbours, friends or relatives, let alone strangers
  • how many also forget the value of friendship and the way some have helped them along the way
  • etc etc
The desire to reach out, touch lives, help others or even an attitude or gratitude is sorely missing in our society today.

Granted that conflicts exist which disturb all of thinking Malaysians. It is common knowledge that many inequalities exist and distribution of resources is fairly inequitable. All that is disturbing but more importantly, in our bid to progress in society, to be a winner in the rat race, the element of being human is startlingly MISSING.

Poor leadership, weak political will and the lack or even absence of towering Malaysians, exemplary behaviour or demonstrations of civic consciousness and the lack of civic consciousness and civic awakening are all missing or deficient. Even at public events, how many actually reach out to welcome others to such public meetings? I have attended so many and notice that many group in their cliques without engaging other newcomers or those who do not belong to any clique. Instead of being a self-serving community, we must really be more caring towards one another.

With little caring for our fellowmen, even with good leadership, plans may not be able to take off.

What we see is the disintegration of society where we become alienated from one another and maybe even ourselves and then dwell in the cold comfort of delusion.


Many years ago, one of my A-level students was absent for a few lessons. I asked the students about him and none new. Then I asked if any of them had his telephone number and some had. So I told them that if they had his number, they should call him. What if he was terminally ill or had died? The class went silent. One of them called him after the lesson and we were shocked to learn that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer and had had an operation to take out a section of his liver (about 10x2cm). Months later, the cancer re-surfaced and had penetrated the bones and lungs. A brave man, he advised us and his family not to be saddened by the turn of events and even gave instructions for his last rites. As requested, he was wearing his favourite MU football jersey on his final journey. We really wept at the wake service and the funeral.

It hurts to care. It is even worse to care too much. Even though I have been hurt/disappointed many times, that does not stop me from caring, loving or helping people. Those episodes have certainly taught me to be wiser in my association with people. Having said that, despite the cold and cruel world we live in,  I will always reach out to genuine ones in need and to others - with lots of discretion and wisdom.

May we not be apathetic or callous in the way we treat others but may we be true, sincere, kind and ready to help those in need. All we need to do is to try a little kindness.....



If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he's sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and stay you're going the wrong way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you'll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Don't walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you'll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you'll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

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