Tragedy or Statistic?

The recent heart-wrenching tragedy in Virginia this week has made most people stop and think. Think about life and our own mortality, how one day you can wake up and have no idea it is your last. Think about the families who have been so cruelly robbed of loved ones. Think about what could drive a human to take such evil action. Think about guns and their control.

One thing it has made me stop and think about is the scale of human tragedy in the world today, and how we respond to it.

Joseph Stalin said, "One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic!" Whilst I totally disagree with his cold-hearted disregard for the sacred and precious nature of every human life. He did have a point in terms of our perception of tragedy. It seems we have an inbuilt limit to how much sorrow or tragedy we can empathise with, beyond that we shut off and cant or wont take it in.

Consider these three "statistics" and how you, or the media responded to them:
  • 32 - The number of deaths at Virginia Tech in the shooting this week.
  • 140 - The number of deaths in the Baghdad bombing yesterday.
  • 270 - Conservative estimate for the average number of deaths every day for the last four years from violence, starvation and disease directly resulting from the conflict in Darfur.

Why is it that some tragedy moves us, yet others don't penetrate the indifference that shrouds our hearts? Is it that some are simply too big for us to comprehend and take in? Is it they are too far removed from our own situation? Or is it more convenient for us to live in a little bubble and block them out?

This week I heard an account on the radio about Darfur that moved me in a way that I had not felt before about this tragedy. I felt compelled to do something. I logged on to the Oxfam appeal website and made a donation. Not much I know, but it was something. It's always better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

400,000 deaths is not a statistic. It is the tragedy of the loss of a single life multiplied 400,000 times.


carl said...

Excellent post Chris.

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