The Panda Blog

Attempts at understanding life

People aren’t just statistics

There are always those headlines in newspapers that say things like “x dead in shooting” or radio announcers that talk about the “y number of people wounded in a car crash.” We’ve all seen these in the media at some point, and so, after a certain number of times, we just stop caring about every individual. I say “we” because I myself am guilty of this too; whenever I see something like this, I always feel bad for the x number that have passed, but it rarely, if ever, truly occurs to me that they’re actual people, flesh and blood, that have died. How would I feel if some of those y people were people I personally knew?

In “The War Prayer” by Mark Twain, the author mentions the “other” prayer, which is the unsaid and implied prayer that everyone is thinking inside, although no one dares to say it out loud. Here, my “other prayer” would be being glad the number wasn’t me, or someone I knew. Still, I wonder what it would feel like if someone I knew actually got hurt in one of these accidents, or how others would feel if I were one of the numbers being alluded to in the news.

Recently, in my Geography class we completed a “Worst Dictator” Project, where we compared authoritative leaders from various locations throughout a wide variety of eras in history (Genghis Khan won). After the voting had been completed, the class talked about who killed the most people as the measure of “the worst,” and I heard someone say something along the lines of: “He only killed like xx million people…” Well, excuse me, but those xx million people were still people, even one person is a human being that lived and breathed and ate like you. How would you like it if you were one of those xx million killed? After a while, the “discussion” degenerated into a mindless throwing-around of statistics. Infuriatingly, no one seemed to mention that the dictators were all bad in the fact that they killed people. Now I’m not blaming my classmates for being inconsiderate, as it’s not their fault for thinking this way, but that episode really shed light on how we, as a society, portrays such events.

In the end, I really think it’s because of the nature of the media that we pass off these accidental deaths as normal. News groups want to keep things short, so almost every bit of news receives the same amount of coverage. Additionally, due to the large volume of deaths in the U.S., not many listeners or readers pay special attention to any one specific event. Thus, many people’s only public legacy is the fact that they were 1 of the “6 killed in car accident.” There are some obituaries for prominent people, but those people have already been in the news. Many people are simply forgotten once the event is cycled out of public media.

I really wish there was a way to change this, but it’s not feasible way to honor every single person that has died, in the media or otherwise. There were some events where individual victims of the Sandy Hook elementary shooting were each remembered separately, but that is one exception among many. I guess until we’re able to come up with a practical way to process mass amounts of data, we can only hope that those who were close to victims will remember them.

Let us have a moment of silence for those people who have passed away, known to everyone, yet still unknown to all.

Thanks for reading,


Also, Happy Birthday! You know who you are.


3 comments on “People aren’t just statistics

  1. Allen Chen
    February 18, 2015

    Always reminds me of Stalin’s quote, “One death is a tragedy. One million is a statistic.”


    • royalreter
      February 18, 2015

      Nice connection! But indeed, one of the dictators we talked about was Stalin 😛


  2. Jeff Cheng
    March 9, 2015

    so whose birthday was it


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This entry was posted on February 16, 2015 by in Analysis.
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