Suffering displayed in numbers means nothing and it never will. It is a part of human psychology. One face and one story will always affect us more than a statistic. It will always affect us more than a faceless number. Even though there’s more victims and more people suffering, the death of one person will always strike a chord with us. Because we can visualize the same thing happening to us which makes us realize risk and danger much better. It’s much easier to empathize with one victim and their family instead of tens of thousands because I don’t think that number even fully registers with us. Besides this being a part of basic human behavior, I think it’s also been somewhat increased by media and news outlets. We see death and violence so much in movies that it’s almost as if our brains have become numb to that concept.
Experiments conducted showed that people would donate more money to help a single child rather than help three at once. With the recent Black Lives Matter movement, it all started with the murder of George Floyd. Even though police brutality and racial bias was happening beforehand, the movement and protests started up once a case came out into the public. Then as it went on, we found out about other similar cases like the one of Breonna Tayler. As soon as you have a face, a family and a past to relate, you will instantly feel more passionate about the cause. It makes the whole thing more real and close to home.
In the recent Beirut explosion too, hundreds of people died. Hundreds of families who are grieving, hundreds of people who were just going about their day like you and I do who lost their lives. It takes a long time to even understand that number and process the meaning of it. A hall full of people at a wedding? A class in school with all sections combined? How many are hundreds? Try to do this by taking the numbers and applying them around us. Take the numbers and think of them in human terms. The brain does not process or comprehend it like that.
We need to try and think about what information is presented to us and how. Hundreds had faces too but we can’t remember them all. It becomes a blur, just like the number. We need to start feeling the grief of hundreds to truly appreciate the value of one life. We need to help as much as we can.
– Zayna Ahsan, Volunteer from Eye on Ivy