In northern Italy, a tragedy happened at a train station. A Canadian woman was struck and badly hurt by a train. Rescuers and station personnel went to help her, and ultimately the injured woman was taken to a hospital, where her leg was amputated.
But while the helpless, injured woman lay prostrate on the track bed and rescue workers assisted her, a guy in white shorts and a white shirt positioned himself on the adjacent platform so that the woman and the workers appeared in the background behind him, flashed a hand gesture and no doubt a facial expression . . . and then used his cell phone to take a “selfie” of himself and the tragic scene. The man’s act of cold-hearted callousness was captured by a news photographer in the photograph published above. Police noticed the man in white shorts, too, and briefly detained him. Although he was found to have committed no crime, they required him to delete the selfie — so we’ll never see the photo that he thought was so important to take.
The above photograph of the heartless selfie-taker has caused shock and outrage in Italy. The photographer said the scene caused him to think that “we have completely lost a sense of ethics.” A commentary in a popular newspaper spoke of a “cancer that corrodes the internet” and said that the man in white shorts had lost his soul and his personality; a popular radio said the scene showed that the human race is “galloping towards extinction.”
But should anyone really be surprised by the man in white shorts who thought a scene of personal tragedy would be an interesting and fitting backdrop for yet another photo of his face? We’ve seen stories of people risking life and limb — and sometimes losing the bet — to take selfies, and we all know people whose first thought, wherever they may be, apparently is to take a selfie and publish it to their friends. The selfie zealots have allowed their narcissism to overwhelm their common sense, and the guy in white shorts has allowed his basic sense of decency to be overwhelmed, too.
For the selfistas, the real world is just an abstraction, and nothing more than background for their self-absorbed grins and gestures. For the sake of the guy in white shorts, let’s hope that if he ever is injured or needs help, there are people nearby whose first reaction will be to help him — rather than step back and take a selfie.