Sir: As a foreigner, resident in this country for many years and married to a British citizen, I am not surprised that a large number of adults who crossed James Bulger's path during the hours of his abduction remained passive. The British have either lost faith in their instincts or abandoned them in response to a system of education which has long discredited instinctive behaviour as, at best, untrustworthy, and, at worst, primitive and positively sinful. In Italy, France, Spain or any of a dozen countries outside this one, one of the 38 people who saw James being dragged along or crying and distressed, in the company of two boys, would have taken charge of the situation.
The British do not trust their instincts: they fear interfering, exposing themselves in some way and maybe getting it wrong, risking ridicule by so doing. They are prone to tell themselves that it is best to do nothing 'when in doubt'.
Instincts have kept us alive as a species since the beginning of time. Irrational feelings about people, situations, or events are frequently vindicated in the short term - or long after. No one can deny the value of careful thought and rational judgement, but the instinctive and the rational must meet to create a healthy balance.