If I have not expressed my strong anti-pathy for the 24 hour news cycle, let me do so now. i think that most thinking people know that almost eveything is distorted when it’s fed to us by the news media. I try and not watch but find it difficult to do so for any significant time.
The election cycle, the news of the Storm.. Shootings are all presented out of context and spark of the wrong type of conversations in the public. They skew the narrative (my new popularized term).
Few days ago as Sandy passed through New York. The death toll became it’s own story.. for last few days the numbers slowly ticketed up. The numbers were followed by stories and eulogies. About people being crushed by trees, swept away by the sea.. When the storm cleared New York city racked up 40 people over two days during which these took place..
Around I heard oh how tragic, while receiving text messages, and emails from around the world asking me if if I survived. This was much the same for most of my friends. As heart warming as these concerns were it struck me as quite strange how much attention was given to these seemingly small numbers. Why are people in Moscow, Europe and Australia imagining that something would happen. on one hand it’s a gesture of kindness, on the other hand. My chances of perishing in this storm was significantly lower then any of the other major causes of death.
Over dinner with friends on second day after the hurricane I interjected with this point when someone mentioned the tragedies. What tragedies I asked? The table went silent and it was apparent it was my time to explain myself. I’ve explained my point that the media distorts for sake of the audience Even though there is truth that each personas misery is the greatest, a child’s scarred knee can evoke a hysteria as intense as someone losing a family member. But at some point we ought to step back and realize that if we are to measure tragedies we do so with numbers. A life lost in New York is equivelant to one lost in Haiti. This is where I found some disagreement, a tragedy is tragedy on any scale. This is something I disagree with. There is a threshold at which an unexpected or tragic event derails the normal way of life for those not immediately effected. 911, Tsunami in the Indian Ocean or Japan last year. These wreak destruction and derail the fabric of community. what happened here in comparison is a non-event.
when I got home out of curiosity I looked at the mortality stats for New York city. In a year 54000 people die a year. which comes out to about 200 a day. majority die of cancer, heart disease and other natural causes. You add these 40 people, and you realize that this year the needle moved less then .001 percent. Why are we mourning these stories, when 600 get gunned down every year? Pedestrians are run over by cars? Are these deaths any less tragic? we don’t we consider them part of the background noise, part of the natural cycle. The lives and deaths of these forty people is no more, no less significant so let’s get off our soapboxes and stop announcing how sad or tragic it is.
There is plenty of injustices in this world that are worth talking about, worth fighting. Worth yelling about. forty people in city of 8,000,000 is not one of them. This is simply an indication of how disconnected we have become from the reality, or how we must show our humanity.