If I notice that someone needs help, I need to help them or I feel bad about it. This has lead me to find strategies to not notice stuff around me – if this monkey is both blind and deaf it doesn’t have to speak. For example: I’m out and about and see some small children running downhill, unconcerned about the gravel further down. Now, there’s a good chance that nothing unfortunate will happen – they won’t fall down and scrape their faces – but since it’s a non-zero chance that something will happen, I make sure not to be the adult nearest them. Because if I am, and they fall, I will have to do something. But if the matter is taken in hand by someone else, my only moral obligation is to do a cursory evaluation of the person lending a hand (to see if they’re helping matters).
This reasoning – and the behaviour which follows it – is more or less automatic, and I think it’s basically sound. But somehow I haven’t been able to present it in a way which doesn’t make me sound like an amoral automatone. My shrink has suggested that the tendency to systematize my behaviour might be a poorly veiled attempt at shielding myself from emotional engagement and exposure. Which sounds like a reasonable assumption on how the system came to be, even though it doesn’t invalidate the basic assumptions: If something bad is happening you have to help if you can.
Problem is, if you don’t wan’t to help but you don’t want to deal with the guilty conscience that follows inaction, a moral solution is to not learn of the bad things happening. So as we grow older, we grow tired of feeling bad and our eyes and ears reflexively ignore what’s around us; A moral noise-cancellation.