Tuesday, July 29, 2014

All Crises are Local

You go to parties, right? You know what it's like when you're making the rounds:

First you talk to a scientist. The scientist tells you that there isn't enough funding for his specialty. He says it's a serious problem, and the public doesn't even know about it!

Then you talk to a music teacher. She tells you there isn't enough funding for music in schools. She says it's a serious problem, and the public doesn't even know about it!

Next you talk to a cop. He tells you his hands are tied when it comes to investigating crimes. He says it's a serious problem, and the public doesn't even know about it!

If every sector of human endeavor was as badly off as these types of conversations make it appear, human endeavor would cease entirely. If everyone worked in a field that was in crisis, nothing would function. See, because everyone thinks their interests and pursuits are extremely important, anything they consider awry with those pursuits to them constitutes a grave, MUSHROOMING crisis. Makes sense; we are all our own little sun that the rest of reality revolves around. We're more crestfallen by our personal setbacks than by anything Hitler cooked up.

Much is made of the power of anecdotes; not enough is made of the power of telling anecdotes. The more opportunity we have to reveal the plight of our work field to strangers (particularly those unaffiliated with that work field), the easier it is for us to believe its problems are uniquely dire and underappreciated. People are more skeptical of statistics than they are of anecdotes - including the anecdote teller. You seldom hear - even from scientists - hard data being tossed around at parties.

Holocausting haberdasher Harry Truman said it well: It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours. All crises are local.

No comments: