"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
August 29, 2014
China Needs the Gospel — Or at Least Scouting: Shanghai's Subway Stampede Shows Why
by Jeff Lindsay

A Chinese friend shared an incident with me that was confirmed the next day in a news story in the Shanghai Daily. A tall foreigner in Shanghai (not me!) caused a stampede on one of Shanghai's many subway trains by doing something rather unexpected: falling asleep.

Yes, I know, it does sound rather scary. The story is quite humorous to some of us foreigners, but there are some serious issues it raises. Here are some excerpts:

Metro appeal after fainting foreigner panic

Subway passengers have been urged to remain calm even if something happens that alarms them — after the sight of a foreigner passing out led to a stampede on a train.

Metro operator Shanghai Shentong said yesterday that panicked reactions in a confined space can create dangerous situations.

“Passengers should keep calm,” said a Shanghai Shentong spokesman.

“In the case of someone passing out, passengers should try to take care of the person and call 120 for help.” …

On August 9 about 9:30pm, a male foreigner on a Metro Line 2 train seemed to lose consciousness and leaned against a woman sitting next to him.

Startled, she jumped up, alarming passengers in neighboring seats. Joined by other panicked occupants, they fled into adjoining carriages.

The carriage emptied within 10 seconds as the unconscious man slumped to the floor.

Panic spread to the other carriages, and there was a stampede to get off as the train approached Jinke Road Station.

In the rush to disembark, some people were pushed over.

No injuries were reported, said the Metro operator.

At the station, staff attended to the foreigner, who by this time had regained consciousness, said Shanghai Shentong.

He said he had felt unwell before losing consciousness and left the station unaccompanied shortly afterward.

The operator also advised passengers not to pull the emergency cord in the event of small incidents.

“Pulling the emergency brake will only delay the rescue. Passengers should seek help from Metro staff after the train arrives at a station,” said the spokesman.

The story makes me chuckle, but it also makes me worry. What if the man were having a medical emergency? Apparently no one stopped to help or even call for medical aid. Now I have personally seen that the people in China are friendly and generally very kind. For people they know, they often do more to help and to love than we are used to in the States.

But for emergencies involving strangers, it can be a different story.

It's not just a problem for foreigners. China has been deeply embarrassed by some incidents in the past year or two where Chinese citizens in need of help were ignored by passers-by. There is much talk among the Chinese about how to lift awareness of citizens and get people to respond more appropriately.

Some people in the government are concerned and wondering how to further strengthen Chinese society in such matters. I may have one possible answer.

In my opinion, unrealistic as it may sound right now, China needs the influence of the Gospel more fully in its midst — or at least Scouting (and perhaps versions of our Young Men, Young Women, and Relief Society organizations). Just the secular components of those programs would do wonders if widespread.

Non-religious people can participate and grow from Scouting and related youth activities, and Scouting and similar programs for young women can be done without being some kind of proselyting tool. Youth need experience in serving, leading, and handling the unexpected.

As I look back on my years in the LDS Young Men program and in Scouting, I realize now that the "Be Prepared" theme was really about being prepared to act swiftly to help others when things go wrong.

Frequent training in first aid, emergency preparedness, citizenship, service, and priesthood leadership helped create an awareness that things can go wrong and when they do, we can and should step up to help.

The training and experiences of LDS women in service and leadership likewise create people who are ready to jump in and take action. Of course, being a mom (especially with more than one child) gives the ultimate training in this area. That's a calling where first aid and emergency preparedness can be practiced daily.

There are many times when I missed opportunities and should have done more, but I appreciate the efforts of so many leaders who tried to make it more likely that I would be ready and willing to take those opportunities and help when trouble comes.

There are plenty of Chinese people who get service and leadership and will step up and solve problems when they occur, but I fear they are outnumbered by people deeply in need of something they aren't currently experiencing. Of course, we have some of the same problems and same needs in the States, too.

The biggest barriers to my little proposal for China might not be religious sensitivities about Scouting and similar programs, but two other factors affecting young people:

  1. the ever-present burden of the High Exam that all young people must take to determine their future, putting heavy pressure on many students to study, study, study, and only study, and

  2. the national affliction of computer games, which in my opinion and the opinion of some bosses I know, drains much of the vitality of the nation, especially its men, once people get past the big exam and move into college and beyond.

A life of too much study and far too much gaming does not prepare one to step up and solve emergencies on the spot in the very frightening real world, which, unlike the surreal security of even zombie-decimated virtual landscapes, is filled which much more unexpected and frightening things, like tall foreigners falling asleep on your train.

If it hadn't been for Scouts, I might have been the first to scream and head for the exits, had I been on that train, and if I'd been awake.

But I also think that exposure to the positive benefits of service and personal preparedness could make people less likely to fall for the trap of nihilistic gaming and more able to add balance to their lives that still enables them to perform well on tests.

Toning down the test system, of course, is part of my long-term hopes for China. Young people need more than study, in my opinion as an unqualified outsider, but also as a parent, and as a former young person.

Here's my wish that service experiences and emergency preparedness will more fully become part of China.

For more from Jeff Lindsay, see Mormanity at http://mormanity.blogspot.com and his Mormon Answers section at http://jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/.

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About Jeff Lindsay

Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton, Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra. He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.

He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.

Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).

Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications. Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.

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