Stories Connect Us More than Numbers

January 19, 2021
Posted in blog
January 19, 2021 Areej Jehan Nasir

Apathy refers to a lack of feeling, emotion, interest or concern about something. Apathy can be further described as a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation or passion and so on. Around the January of 1947, it is alleged that Joseph Stalin coined the phrase, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”. Though the topic of who first coined this phrase is alleged, there has still been plenty of discussion over this phrase and the subject matter regarding it. We live in an age where individuals carry the thought and mindset of the fact every life is considered equal, precious and worthy. Though this seems to be the case with many ethical individuals including myself, when a tragedy occurs on a wider scale, we seem to find ourselves in a certain state of apathy rather than feeling the heavy weight of sympathy for said large tragedy. In a fairly recent study conducted around 2010 has helped highlight as to why this sate of apathy occurs; as the number of victims involved in tragedies increases, the motivation to suppress the overwhelming feelings of strong sympathy increases as well.

Imagining a tragedy where a large numerical range of people are affected proves hard to imagine, close to impossible even. When we are exposed to one tragedy, it becomes much easier to sympathise and empathise with their pain and misery. This certain point and example proves that there is a solid limit to human compassion. The visualisation of large data regarding a tragedy may give a better insight to an individual when trying to understand how many lives were affected, but I do hold the opinion that it aids in strengthening one’s sense of apathy. A large number of casualties and/or tragedies are not easy to process and sympathise with and viewing that type of visualised data may give way for the viewer to connect with this sense of apathy and have a blunt approach toward said visualised data. On the other hand, viewing and learning about one tragedy may allow an individual to have a softer and more emotional approach about it. In conclusion, the visualisation of large data regarding/concerning tragedies or casualties appears to us individuals as numbers rather than individual lives, whereas learning about one particular negative occurrence or tragedy at a time gives way for a more sympathetic and soft approach for the individual learning about said occurrence.

– Areej Jehan Nasir, Volunteer from Eye on Ivy