Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

On Altruism

Plausible explanations:

hbd1: People are too inbred? Or too outbred? see hbdchick

hbd2: Asians are neotenic egocentric sobs

hbd3: Agricultural societies select for cold, heartless people see agnostic

Culturalism1: urban life´s anonimity free people from having to give a shit

cult2: Commercialism makes people self absorbed

cult3: Americanisation broke the spirit of Japan see Mishima Yukio

cult4: The economy is bad, people are busy


Add your explanation if you can think of one.

My two cents: high population density sucks.


9 responses to “On Altruism

  1. Alrenous March 20, 2012 at 04:03

    The basic facts are that the pedestrians should feel they need to get out of the way, but aren’t feeling any such thing. It’s debatable as to whether it even occurs to them intellectually.

    Bystander effect. “Even if I move, the rest of these jackasses won’t, so why bother?”

    Also, I have little doubt their ‘education’ system is basically the same Prussian BS as ours. Which means nobody tells them basic basic stuff like the fact that sirens have right of way. Even the ones that realize the ambulance wants them to move are likely learning it on the spot from the van’s body language, so to speak, and subsequently wondering why the ambulance is being a jackass.

  2. Wes March 20, 2012 at 11:26

    I say we need more evidence. One video clip is just too short to make much of a judgement, there could have been some factor we didn’t see. The Japanese are courteous people who demonstrated altruism in the recent earthquake. So, my two cents: We aren’t seeing the whole picture here.

    • spandrell March 20, 2012 at 12:20

      FWIW I used to live there, and I’ve seen it happen. People in Tokyo mostly don’t give a shit.
      The earthquake of course was a major shock, and national propaganda instilled a feeling of crisis that made people more altruist. But absent the eyes and mouth of Big Brother urban japanese really don’t give a shit.

      • Nyk May 2, 2012 at 01:17

        Sounds like the Chinese in China, who are also known to not give a damn about strangers. Apparently it runs in the race or maybe culture (the Japs took a lot from Chinese culture).

        But it occurs to me that maybe stuff like ignoring the ambulance is actually a good thing. It takes a certain amount of Universalism to put your own present worries about the life of a person not genetically related to you.

        Renaissance Christianity was probably the sweet spot between Universalism/caring for complete strangers and genetic self-interest.

  3. KK March 20, 2012 at 14:27

    Indifference of crowds. In that situation it’s very easy to rationalize that your own decision (stop vs. keep walking) is insignificant since a hundred other people are still blocking the way no matter what you do. You can route the responsibility for the situation to the collective shoulders of a mass of people.

    There might also be a theory on ‘decision inertia’ or such that it’s always more difficult to change your action than keep doing what you do. You probably remember not wanting to go somewhere as a kid and then not wanting to leave once you got there. The people in the film are already moving, and stopping would require a direct decision to alter their planned course of action.

    Anonymity in public is a huge factor for people being passive in different situations. In emergencies with a lot of bystanders, you shouldn’t make a general call for help “Someone call the police!”. Instead, you should make precise requests for individual people. “You, call the police. You, go stand in that corner and warn incoming traffic”. If it were just a small but steady trickle of pedestrians, they would stop and leave a gap for the ambulances, no matter if it was in Shanghai, Nairobi, or Islamabad. Or maybe that’s just my euro-centric wishful thinking.

    So yes, ‘high population density sucks’.

  4. yacheritsi March 20, 2012 at 15:53

    Looking at the translated youtube comments it appears that other Japanese are shocked by the behavior of these Tokyo pedestrians, so I’m going with population density as the prime cause.

  5. aretae March 20, 2012 at 20:39

    hbd3 + cult1 sounds good to me.

  6. Steve Johnson June 6, 2012 at 12:05

    cult4 hypothesis: People have been desensitized to the urgency of sirens through constant exposure and seeing examples of them being used for the convenience of the operators rather than for emergencies.

    In NYC I’ve heard in response to fire engine sirens “looks like the diner is on fire again” – in other words there’s no fire but the firefighters don’t want to wait in traffic.

    No idea if this is the perception in Tokyo.

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