Lexington Books, 1978
Few social interactions so illuminate the nature of the social bond within a society as the manner in which an innocent bystander responds to the plight of a stranger in need of assistance. The emotions evoked and the actions elicited by the cry for help of a fellow being in distress serve as the touchstone for expressing the obligations that one member of a society owes another by virtue of their shared humanity.
The dyadic connection between two strangers—a victim in distress and his or her potential rescuer—offers a glimpse into the network of human relationships. The complexities of social life are clearly etched out in the two-way interaction that comes into existence when one individual turns to another for aid. The way that any individual reacts to a cry for help not only reflects his or her own personal attributes or passing mood, but also mirrors, to a large extent, the mores of the society in which s/he lives. The varying ways in which societies organize themselves—in law and education in declared intent and practical policy—with respect to the problem of the innocent bystander are a consequence of the way each society feels about some of its most cherished values.
The examination of such values and the way they are expressed is the subject of this book.