After reading the story in chapter five about various ‘ignored violent attacks’, I personally feel that yes, larger cities tend to lean as impersonal and uncaring places. I have many reasons for this and my personal experience as well.
I have lived in San Francisco, El Paso, and a small village in Germany. I think I have some experience with seeing this first hand. The course textbook states that “A woman was attacked in the Gowanus Apartments, a New York City housing project. As she was beaten, she began screaming and continued her cries for 20 minutes.
Many heard her—no one came to her rescue” (Macionis, 2017). In a large city like New York or San Francisco, there is a lot of noise. There is always yelling or some kind of action going on, so it isn’t unusual for this kind of sound to be ignored, especially if no one is around to see what is actually happening.
I would like to believe that if someone saw this happening, they would call for help or try to help. However, the textbook also describes a scene where a person “lay dying on the sidewalk for more than an hour before firefighters arrived, two dozen people walked by” (Macionis, 2017).
In a situation like this, I can see how the person laying down might be seen as a drunk or a sleeping or disabled homeless. I myself have walked by plenty of people who fit that description.
If I saw that a person was bleeding or visibly hurt then I probably would act on that. The textbook further states that one reason people don’t help is due to the bystander effect. “Many criminologists and psychologists suggest the existence of a social phenomenon known as bystander apathy or the bystander effect” (Macionis, 2017).
I’ve seen a lot of this bystander effect on social media. People pull out their phones to record these situations instead of helping or calling for help, and usually, someone does come to help, but by the time they do, there is a crowd of people who could’ve helped way before.
The textbook also states that “Witnesses will be less likely to help because they reinforce each other about the ambiguity of the situation or else think another person in the crowd already reported the incident” (Macionis, 2017).
Basically, people expect that someone is already helping or going to help, but with that mindset, no help will come if nobody actually makes sure that everything is okay.
In San Francisco, people avoid talking to each other on the sidewalk because you can’t trust anyone. In El Paso, a large city, but more community-like, it’s a toss-up of whether people will help or watch, but they are more likely than San Francisco, to help.
In a small village in Germany, like the one I lived in, it is a lot more personal, so people help each other all the time. Although some big cities like San Francisco tend to be more impersonal as a whole, there are small communities within these larger cities that are caring and personal to those in the community.