Have we become a race of observers?

This past weekend I was at an amusement park. I’m all about the fast rides and the rush of trying to keep my hands up the whole time the ride is in motion. The day began as usual, rushing to the park to take advantage of every operating minute, waiting in line to park, to pay the admission fee, to ride a roller coaster.

About noon I got in line for my favorite ride and began my typical people-watching ritual. As I observed those around me, a teenage boy a few feet away began to sway slightly on his feet and the next moment he was delicately sprawled out in the line. His buddies didn’t even notice his fall and kept talking with their backs towards him. Everyone around just looked on. Then just as suddenly he opened his eyes, blinked a few times and then looked around to figure out what he was doing. By this point, his friends noticed and heckled him a little for what they thought was a joke. He laughed and told them he just fell over. In all directions people kept looking at him but no one said a thing.
When he began swaying on his feet again, one of his friends told him to take off one of his shirts – for some reason he had on three t-shirts. As he reached to remove the first layer he swayed into his friend, who barely caught him before he hit the pavement. No one moved to help the boy or his friends. I yelled up to the front of the line for the attendant to call for help. He leisurely made a phone call and offered a jug of water, without a cup, to revive the kid who was in and out of it.

Eventually a couple came to their rescue, got the boy to sit propped up against a wall, took off his shirts and doused him in the water. Fifteen minutes later medical personnel from the park arrived with a cup full of blue soda. He ended up being fine and I saw him a couple hours later joking with his friends in line for another line. But the situation got me thinking…. Have we become a race of observers? Why were there no people of action there? Why didn’t a doctor, nurse, EMT or other medical professional step-up to help? Everyone saw the incident. But for many it appeared as though they watched a TV show rather than an actual event.

Perhaps it is the culture of observation that has numbed us to reality. When we can watch the private lives of celebrities as easily as nobodies thanks to YouTube and reality TV, perhaps we’ve lost the ability to react as necessary in certain real-life situations. I hope that is not the case. But the more we become observers of everything around us, it seems the less we actively interact with our surroundings.



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