An unspeakably horrifying video shows a man brutally and repeatedly kicking an elderly woman in the face and torso while she sits on a bench in a New York City subway train. That is not even the worst part. A group of onlookers stand around watching and cheering like they’re at a professional wrestling match. The assault continues for several seconds and nobody even attempts to intervene. When the train stops, the crowd allows the vile scumbag to simply stroll away and leave the scene of the crime.
Of course, as usual, multiple people made sure to film the incident. It should be noted that they filmed it for the social media traffic it would bring, not because they wanted to help apprehend the suspect. We know this is the case because the crime occurred weeks ago but the NYPD evidently just found out, after someone discovered the video online and reposted it. Those who took the original videos apparently made no effort to alert the authorities, just as they made no effort to defend the helpless 78-year-old woman who was being stomped right in front of them.
It is one thing for a single cowardly hunk of garbage to behave like a cowardly hunk of garbage. Humanity has always been plagued by those types. They can be dealt with. But it is much harder for a culture to survive and sustain itself when the average onlookers, who are not themselves interested in stomping old ladies, are nonethless entertained by the spectacle and most concerned with parlaying it into Facebook shares. It is not necessarily a statement about society that one awful man does something awful. It is a statement about society that the first instinct of the crowd is to get it all on video.
If we lived in a morally healthy country, the man on that tape would not have made it out of the train in one piece. He would have been descended upon by a group of righteously angry men, who would have proceeded to exact swift and violent justice while the women tended to the victim. In earlier times, it’s unlikely that the culprit would survive the corporal punishment that the crowd administers. And he would certainly deserve that painful and disgraceful death, and whatever additional punishments may follow it.
But we are in a more enlightened age now. An age where the man is allowed to leave with his teeth still in his head, and the elderly woman is left bleeding in the corner of the train without anyone even stopping to ask if she’s okay. I really wish that we were not so enlightened.