My comments concern an April 23 news story about the arrest of a man who raped a 21-year-old girl aboard a train last summer. Some Japanese people who talked about this crime said “kawaiso” (I am sorry for her). But none had a word to say about the passengers in the car who knew what was happening but did nothing to stop it.

The only thing I can conclude from their remarks is that the concept of kawaiso (a term to express sympathy for something, someone or oneself) has been distorted, and now it seems to be a excuse that absolves people of all responsibility.

The passengers had been threatened by the would-be rapist, and fear can make us act in a way that we would not like to act. That’s understandable, but in this case it was a man against a group. There was no reason for fear. Just a phone call, a cry for help, could have changed everything.

When facing situations that entail risk, people nowadays don’t take actions unless they (or closed family and friends) are directly affected. By doing nothing, they leave the victim alone and defenseless. We have become passive observers of the suffering of the others. Not to act when we are witness to a crime is as abhorrent as the crime itself.

eddy nelson

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