I love statistics, especially the quirky ones that karma sends in my direction to see if I am paying attention. That said then you could understand why this Malcolm Gladwell noted statistic in an article for the New Republic cued my interest. “ More Zairians in Kikwit died of diarrhea this spring, than from Ebola!” Okay Jeopardy fans. Five points for knowing the continent that Zairians live on and twenty points if you can find Kikwit on a map!
Map quest aside, most of us are pretty lucky to have plenty of food, clean water and roofs over our heads and not that interested in mid term elections so that we have plenty of time to worry about being befallen by a virus we have absolutely no chance of catching. Yet not surprisingly we Americans are forever leaning against deaths door. Despite the fact less than a hundred years ago our life expectancy was in the mid forties and now it is well into the seventies. More Americans are over the age of one hundred today then at anytime in our history!
But did you know one in five of us are going to get the flu this year? How about one in three of us will come down with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia? And this fact I found particularly upsetting; the majority of people whom commit senseless acts of violence with guns and who are deemed mentally unstable are on a psychiatric drug? Now one might say if not for the drugs worse things might happen, yet if one reads the warning label on those drugs one quickly discovers that patients are to call the Doctor if they begin to feel urges to hurt, kill or cause violence to themselves or others. Apparently those symptoms are side effects of the very medication they are taking to prevent those feelings!
Statistics aside, Ebola the latest scourge at our doorstep has gone from an outbreak halfway around the world affecting a few people, to being the lead news item for American television. It is important to note it is not a plague or a pandemic but an outbreak. The fact that US Troops are now in West Africa assisting with fighting the disease with boots on the ground seriousness and for the TV bubbleheads that means we are all in danger since we now have put a lot of people in harms way that will be coming home eventually to places all across America. See, that is the kind of stuff you think about if you watch too much Faux News!
Is it no wonder most of us have developed a feeling of complacency about 24 hr. news and it’s never ending peat and repeat methods of programming. If we take time to review most of the information we often find, facts are few and the information given is based more on someone’s opinion which is then presented as fact and that their sources with very little scrutiny are seldom vetted. News used to be something meant to enlighten and warn us and we listened; now it actually desensitizes us into a mindless stare. Not only have we glossed over news about Ebola but also many other important diseases we should not be so fast to dismiss such as Mad Cow Disease, polio, flu, mumps, measles, chickenpox and shingles!
In short, statistics and the news presented properly can enlighten us to the real dangers of the modern world if we pay attention to not only the facts but also the manner in which they are presented to us. For now no one has come up with the stats that tells us what happens to people who don’t pay attention to warnings on the news, but it will for sure be a sad statistic indeed if we don’t soon figure out the difference between what’s real news and stuff made up to just scare us. Kikwit is where?