Monday, November 23, 2020

Readers Write

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Tim B wrote to me about the passion of his brother, Reg, for ukuleles, even sending me a limerick that although he started with one, he now has eight. In commenting, I referred to Tim as being from England. 

Tim has responded to my response: 

Hi Otto, I sent your Bytes to my brother Reg, who by the way is a retired lawyer, and he saw that you thought I was from England. His response. 
Take care, love Bytes, 
Tim B…….from Georgia, USA 

The Bellury Tim B. I must say 
Was born in the U. S. of A. 
He doesn’t reside 
Or in England abide 
But England’s in his DNA 

And he told me to tell you he actually has bought nine. 

Thanks, Tim, and my apologies to both you and Reg. 

Here are some items for Reg, the second being from the UK from someone named Tim, funnily enough . . . 



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Last week I also posted some photographs from WW 2 which mentioned the Holocaust. 

Friend and Byter Steve Matthews, whose most recent book Hitler’s Brothel has just been published, sent me an email: 

A wonderful Bytes today, Otto. They fit right in with my current research. Thank you. I will follow up on the links later. 

I would like to share a statistic with you. It was sent to me the Auschwitz Museum in Poland as part of my research: 

WWII- If you were to add all the U.S. soldiers, airmen & women, navy and civilian deaths to all the British soldiers, airmen & women, navy (incl merchant) and civilians who died, you would find that more people were murdered in Auschwitz... 

Regards always 

Steve M 

Thanks Steve 


In reply I sent an email to Steve which read in part: 

A horrifying statistic. 

Josef Stalin is often quoted as having said “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” 

The mind finds it difficult to comprehend death in such large numbers. Even 250,000 dead from COVID-19 in the US is hard to appreciate. 

And still people deny the Holocaust.. 
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The Stalin quote is also sometimes framed as “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” 

It is quite accurate, as I observed above, but did Stalin say it? 

Leonard Lyons wrote in the Washington Post in 1947, in what is the first link of Stalin to the subject quotation: 

In the days when Stalin was Commissar of Munitions, a meeting was held of the highest ranking Commissars, and the principal matter for discussion was the famine then prevalent in the Ukraine. One official arose and made a speech about this tragedy — the tragedy of having millions of people dying of hunger. He began to enumerate death figures … Stalin interrupted him to say: “If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.” 

Journalist Kurt Tucholsky wrote in a 1925 German newspaper article: 

At which a diplomat from French Ministry of Foreign Affairs replies: “The war? I can’t find it too terrible! The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. One hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!” 

This human tendency to turn away from mass suffering has been termed by Deborah Small and Paul Slovic as the “collapse of compassion”. 

According to Psychology Today: 

“It's not simply that as the number of victims goes up, people's sympathy levels off. No, when the numbers go up, the amount of sympathy people feel goes perversely down. And with it goes the willingness to donate money or time to help. 

But why? In a world where people go around saying things like, "every life is precious" and "all people are equal," why do we react with such apparently unequal preciousness? If we take seriously the idea that every life is of equal value, we'd expect to feel twice the sympathy for two victims as for one; and we'd feel a hundred thousand times as much for a hundred thousand victims. And yet, we do the opposite. 

Recent studies that Daryl Cameron and I conducted shed light on why this might happen. We found evidence that as the number of victims goes up, so does the motivation to squelch our feelings of sympathy. In other words, when people see multiple victims, they turn the volume down on their emotions for fear of being overwhelmed. 


Related concepts are: 

Psychic numbing: a tendency for individuals or societies to withdraw attention from past experiences that were traumatic, or from future threats that are perceived to have massive consequences but low probability 

Compassion fatigue: a condition characterised by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathise or feel compassion for others, often described as the negative cost of caring. Compassion fatigue is considered to be the result of working directly with victims of disasters, trauma, or illness, especially in the health care industry. 

Whether collapse of compassion, psychic numbing or compassion fatigue, we today in our COVID world are in the midst of it.

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