Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Thousand Rapes!

I heard someone say, "It can overwhelming to think of all those who are raped and murdered in other countries!"

If by "think" that person meant "worry about", it's not so much "overwhelming" as it is impossible! We are not "hardwired" with that ability. Joseph Stalin made an accurate observation when he said, "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."

Studies (and common observation) have shown that the strength of sympathetic/empathetic emotion is indirectly proportional to the numbers involved. In other words, as the numbers who suffer rise, our ability to care falls. We just can't relate.

We evolved to protect ourselves and our own. We are therefore capable of very strong emotions regarding ourselves and our own. Although we can understand the concept of a million deaths or a thousand rapes, we did not evolve to react with strong emotions to such information. There's no sense in feeling guilty about it.

Of course, this does not mean that we should ignore the million deaths or thousand rapes! Our species has the ability to choose behavior above and beyond that prompted by emotions. It's why we're able to "love our enemies". It's also why self-sacrificial love is the result of choice, not emotion.