A Minnesota man died after he attempted to save his cellphone from the icy waters of the Chicago River early Monday, CBS Chicago reports. After dropping his phone into the water alongside the city’s Riverwalk area, the 26-year-old climbed over the railing and soon fell into the river.
One of the two humans who jumped into the river to save the Minnesota man is in the hospital and the other is missing and presumed dead. The sex of the missing one is female and that of the hospitalized one is male. What can we learn from this tragedy? Not dumb moralizing about our unhealthy attachment to cellphones. No. Let's learn this instead: The two who tried to save the Minnesota man were being human and not stupid. No Darwin Award for them because we got to where are as a species precisely as a consequence of this kind of sociality, which has two things at its core: the helping instinct and the emotional resources for forgiveness.
It must be remembered that the helping instinct is so natural to us that it only makes a vivid appearance in extreme situations such as the one in this report. Indeed, the reason why our movies and news reports are so packed with violence is because evolutionary selection has wired us to focus on bad situations and not normal ones, which involve our effortless ability to help others. A system organized by the logic of capitalism, a logic that places economic value on our attention, will emphasize precisely the violence in our society because that is what captures our attention.