Stalin supposedly said that when a million people die, it’s a statistic, but when one person dies, it’s a tragedy.

Charles Wheelan- We came, We Saw, We Left

The obvious question: Is a million a statistic and is one a tragedy?

Do we discount things when there are mass numbers? When something is personal to you, do you take it more seriously?

I think the difference is, when you see something from afar, it is very easy to have a particular opinion about it…but when faced with something up close, I think you can change your mind rather quickly…When something faces you personally the meaning might become different. Someone might not care about gun violence until someone they know gets shot…

What do you think about this quote?

Have you ever changed your mind about something when faced with it for real?

Discuss

59 thoughts on “Stats

      1. Same thing, although less common. I cannot get past how someone would not care about violent acts, at the very least in their own societies. I’ve never encountered someone who shrugged their shoulders at these violent acts.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have a post coming up about a situation in my immediate neighborhood. It will give you another side to this. And I am anti violence. This morning when I came out of the gym one guy was high, and speaking to another person using threatening language. What do you do in that situation?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ll look forward to the post. If I were in that situation I’d probably just keep walking, knowing there was nothing I could do to defuse the situation, unless I thought I could quietly and usefully suggest that the person being threatened could walk away. But that’s quite different from being indifferent to violence unless it happens to you. First of all, it’s not being indifferent, it’s just realizing you are helpless. Anyway, I will await your post!

        Liked by 2 people

      4. The original phrase that I couldn’t get past was not caring, not whether it’s indifference or survival. I can’t answer that question, I’m happy to say; I suspect some would call it indifferent, it’s more likely survival. But that doesn’t mean someone who sees it every day, or never, doesn’t care.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Is it numb, or is it compartmentalization? I heard about the body of the jogger being found today. If I let it get to me too much I’m never leaving my house. What’s the right level?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. A cancer diagnosis for self or a person in your orbit hits differently.

    I like stats. The problem with stats lies with who presents the stats. I have never been more cynical of government than I am today post-two-years of lockdown.

    Doesn’t mean I don’t read stats, it means I research the source first.

    So yes, a cancer diagnosis for a large population makes me think, pause, for a moment. When it hits close to home, the reaction is different.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I care about gun violence very much. However, I hear the news most every night and while I care, I continue on just fine. Recently, my son’s best friend was killed by a drunk driver. The pain was intense and immediate. A young man was dead, lives changed and my son and his wife were devastated. The quote rings true for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry for your loss. That’s devastating. But as to your other point, I’m the same way…I care and feel bad and empathize…but I still get up and go in with my day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Of course it hurts a lot more when it’s affecting you personally. But too much information and social media has created compassion fatigue. If we all reacted emotionally to every death in the news we’d fall apart. As for single versus mass death, I think it’s that the type of thing that causes a single death is usually different. Tsunamis are less personal and less likely than a local murder.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Personal experience is always much more profound and often brings a visceral response. Reading numbers or even seeing images really doesn’t evoke the same reaction, especially with the advent of media coverage everywhere, for everything.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh, have I ever! There was a time when hearing stats on drug overdoses was just another number…along with the thinking, “What did they expect to happen?” Having it hit close to home and with the knowledge of what led to this loved one turning to drugs, I feel completely different about it. I would guess that’s true for a lot of people. Issues that are nothing but stats (domestic abuse, mass shootings, drunk drivers, etc.), until it impacts their life personally. Guess that’s just human nature?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I definitely fall into the “personally affected” category but still consider a mass shooting a tragedy before a statistic. I think it’s just human nature to care more or change your point of view once you’re affected directly.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It can be challenging to consider the collective impact of a huge loss of lives. One that is personal to us can have enormous impact. Other than death, stats are a slippery proposition and wielded with purpose to sway opinion. I tend to take a skeptical view. My personal experience weighs heavily in my opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I tend to take things more seriously when I am personally affected by them.
    Sometimes it can feel hopeless though—I know so many who have not won their struggle with alcohol–wish I had the answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m always affected by gun shootings. Especially those happening in schools where innocent children are involved. I get physically ill hearing or seeing gun violence on TV. It always devastates me. So much so that I have to shelter myself from too much news these days because it upsets me so much.

    As I teacher, there were countless times my class had to practice getting in safe places in my classroom to hide if there was an active shooter in the building. Elementary students cry when they are frightened. And as a teacher I had to pull it together to be cool, calm, and collected when twice my school was on lock down for hours. Lights out, kids under their desks etc. I crawled around holding hands, giving hugs, helping terrified children go into the bathroom etc. One of those times a shooter had killed a man in a close by strip mall and the police had my school on lockdown because he was last seen running across our school parking lot and through the play ground. The children were really scared.

    Having been that situation with my students and knowing their fears , whenever I hear about a shooting I can only imagine the terror of a real life shooter running into my classroom or hallway . In fact, I was baby sitting my grands after school the day when Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High has a mass shooting. MSD is 15 minutes down the road from my house and not even ten minutes from my son’s home. I received a barrage of texts from former students who were in college asking me if I had heard if their brothers or sisters were safe. I also knew many of the students from MSD because I was involved with their poetry program. In fact, I had judged their school the previous year for their poetry competition. So I was more than overwhelmed with horror and then grief because I knew a lot of these children. There are no words…. No words to describe what those students, teachers and parents felt. . In fact one year for the blueapple poetry network I sat next Trayvon Martin’s father as I judged students in the county. You cannot be unaffected when you have spent time with a parent whose child died from gun violence. It’s heartbreaking.

    So yes, knowing people makes it even more personal. But, I’m always shattered by unnecessary killings and gun violence. I’m never unaffected.

    I judged these students after the shooting … and wept hearing them perform live.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think all violence is bad in equal measure. The stabbings in Canada, the jogger abducted and murdered, someone pushed in front of a subway, someone carjacking someone and beating them…to me they are all equally bad. No one deserves to be the victim of violence.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true. But it always seems magnified to me when there are innocent, defenseless children. However, Any type of violence is monstrous. I can’t even watch it in films. I know it’s an actor, but the fact that it could happen to a real person upsets me. I will fast forward violent parts in films. Or turn off the movie. The fact that that kind of evil exists in the world is beyond upsetting.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. This kind of thinking, mass vs. individual, is why governments/politicians try to dehumanize groups of people–Jews, Roma, the opposite political party, the unvaccinated, etc. If they can get us to think of them as just a group of “deplorables,” as “those people,” then we won’t care so much what happens to them as opposed to what happens to us or those in our family or circle of friends. Unfortunately, the thinking doesn’t go as far as “if they can do that to any of those people, what is to stop them from doing it to me?” They don’t want us to personalize tragedies, but to stand apart from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. That’s a big question! Wish I knew the answer. I will say that here in the UK when a mass shooting happens in the U.S it’s a case of ‘ What a crazy country ‘ and it’ll never change. I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. Do stats matter to a person that’s just been mugged?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I am definitely more personally affected when its someone I know but I my heart does go out to mass tragedies as well as hearing about victims in car accidents, etc. I just feel so badly for the grieving family and friends.
    But yes, I do feel that there is some desensitization that happens as well with mass shootings for we sadly have heard about sooooo many of them!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny. A college student interviewed me today for a class…asked me about 9/11. I think a lot of people who weren’t here that day don’t feel it like we do. I remember during Covid there was a Facebook thing going around about why people cared about the 9/11 deaths cause it was only4,000…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! That’s a reality check isn’t it? As a teacher I always went into detail about 9/11. When did kids stop learning about it?
        The Important point was never about the amount of deaths, but about America being violated by foreign terrorists on our soil. (First time in modern history). The shock of Americans and the entire world after premeditated attacks on the (THEN) most powerful country in the world temporarily brought down, was devastating to our national security, our preparedness, and our day to day safety, was an eye opener. How Sad that today’s young people only think about numbers. One or 4000 it was a tragedy.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I think this type of connect/disconnect is just human nature. We’re fortunate when an individual takes on a larger cause even if it hasn’t touched them personally. Those people are rare though perhaps still how I aspire to be at this time in my life, even if it’s near the end.

    Liked by 1 person

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