Reality Check: A Good Samaritan Dies for His Efforts

by | Apr 28, 2010 | MUSIC

Sometimes you can’t help but wonder what the fuck is wrong with the world. As he lay dying on the pavement on a street in New York, Hugo Tale-Yax probably wondered the same thing. On April 18th, around 6 AM, in Queens, NY, a woman was accosted by an unknown assailant wielding a knife. After stumbling upon the situation, presumably by chance, Tale-Yax, 31, a Guatemalan immigrant who had recently become homeless, chose to intervene, a decision that cost him his life.

Sometimes you can’t help but wonder what the fuck is wrong with the world. As he lay dying on the pavement on a street in New York, Hugo Tale-Yax probably wondered the same thing. On April 18th, around 6 AM, in Queens, NY, a woman was accosted by an unknown assailant wielding a knife. After stumbling upon the situation, presumably by chance, Tale-Yax, 31, a Guatemalan immigrant who had recently become homeless, chose to intervene, a decision that cost him his life.

A security camera shows Hugo pursuing the attacker off frame, where he is stabbed multiple times in the torso, before returning into the view of the camera, attempting to give chase but stumbling and falling into a crumpled heap on the sidewalk. The story thus far is a sad one; an unfortunate reminder that the best of intentions do not always yield positive results, but what follows is nothing short of heartbreaking.

For over an hour, Hugo lies bleeding out on the sidewalk, while more than twenty pedestrians pass within feet of him, not one stopping to help. Many glance down at him before continuing on their way. One stops to snap off a picture on his cell-phone. One passer-by actually shakes him and turns him over, revealing the pool of blood below, before he too continues on his way. Authorities are not contacted until around 7 AM, and Hugo is dead by the time they arrive at 7:23.

Pardon my language, but this kind of cold-hearted, apathetic, behavior is fucking deplorable. To do nothing while somebody lays dying at your feet is more than criminal, it’s inhuman. While some of these people were probably ignorant to the gravity of Hugo’s predicament, it’s simply impossible that all twenty-some did not take notice. The guy with the cell-phone camera? The guy that shook him, and turned him over, twice? Inexcusable, and moreover, incredibly disheartening.

And this is not an isolated event. In relation to the incident, ABC news correspondent Linsey Davis reports that earlier this year, in Seattle, a teenager was beaten unconscious and robbed in a subway while three security guards stood idly by and watched. In Richmond, CA, 2009, a group of 10 young adults and adolescents raped a 15-year-old girl while 20 or so onlookers allegedly watched and did nothing. In Hartford, CT, in 2008, a 78-year-old man was struck by a car in broad daylight, while both the car that struck him and the ten vehicles that subsequently passed by leaving him bleeding from the head on the street.

Psychiatrists and specialists interviewed about the Tale-Yax incident cite phenomena like diffusion of responsibility (it’s not my responsibility, I’m no cop, who cares?), the bystander effect (everyone else is passing by, I’ll pass by too), and the desensitization effect (blame the movies and the video games). While these are all plausible psychological explanations, based on scientific study and observation, the fact remains that officials have been spouting this shit for decades, and at this point it seems more like they’re making excuses rather than coming up with solutions.

So how do you cure a society of its indifference and apathy when its every whim is satisfied at a keystroke or a phone call; when acts as simple as leaving the house and interacting with others in person is becoming increasingly optional? I’d be crazily naïve and idealistic to even suggest any absolute solution, but what it boils down to partly, in my opinion, is just a little bit of social responsibility, and that one thing we so often forget about in our society: compassion. If that asshole with the cell-phone camera had stopped for just a second to think “hey, maybe this guy needs help, I mean, I already have my phone out and everything,” maybe Hugo Tale-Yax would still be alive. If people reminded themselves that what they see on TV, and on the internet, and in every other media-outlet is not reality; if we cared a little less about where Tiger Woods’ dick has been, or how many Mercedes Lindsay Lohan can crash in her life time, and cared a little more about the people around us, the world (or our country at least), would be a little less fucked up. I doubt that there is a way to inspire that kind of personal initiative on the scale of an entire nation, especially one as big and diverse as ours, but if anyone’s got any ideas, I’m open to suggestion.

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.




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