One of my friends in Facebook once posted a picture featuring a sombre comparison between a mammoth, world-changing mover-and-shaker like Steve Jobs with one starving kid in Sudan waiting to be swallowed by a vulture a few days ago. I clicked towards the image, and found out that more than 1,000 people – as of today, now it’s more than 4500 – had shared the pictures worldwide, irrespective of national or geographical borders. What astonished me the most was the message written below: one dies, million cry, million die, no one cries. To be honest, this conveyance had seemed to be like a large hammer knocking down my subconscious mind. The popularity of one man’s death could transgress that of one million.
I admit that Steve Jobs had been a miracle to our world. Through decades of persistence, resilience, and almost seemingly unsinkable gusto, he had built Apple from a garage into a world-changing conglomeration whose products had given endless hopes to millions of people. If there were no Steve Jobs (don’t forget Wozniak as well), the world would not have been as colorful as now it has been, millions of blind and deaf people worldwide (as Stevie Wonder quoted it) would not have lived a brand new world without the assistance of Apple’s inventions, music industry (as some musicians said) would not have ever revived into an entirely new stage, that is now known as digital music industry, and there would have been no Pixar, whose eye-popping, brightly-tinted animation movies have been seen by hundred million people worldwide. Steve Jobs’ inventions had spread like magic, beyond anyone’s expectations. The world has progressed rapidly through the introduction of firstly Macintosh, then iPod, Macbook, iPhone, and currently, iPad. Out of these products, there were still a pantheon of inventions Apple had contributed to the whole planet.
Nevertheless, that’s the source of the irony. And unfortunately, it is a fundamental weakness of us as humankind. One man’s popularity may exceed dozens of news headlines taking place on the world. Often when we had been hypnotized by someone’s fame, we began to forget there is something more important we should have known. At the same time Steve Jobs has passed away, some of us only began to realize that something that should be larger than it is coming off in other parts of the world. Starvation is happening in Somalia, where millions are struggling to stay alive amidst the hostilities between al-Shabaab combatants with government forces. The war in Libya has usurped more than 25,000 lives since NATO-led military invention in March. Few people know there was once a devastating genocide taking place in Rwanda which took off more than 1 million lives of the Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus. And still not many people know much about the reality.
One psychologist, Paul Slovic, once mentioned what he termed as ‘fundamental deficiency in our humanity’. Automatically, we have been programmed by our subconscious minds that we pay greater concern on one person than one thousand masses. This was proven after a series of psychiatric tests conducted by Slovic and his partners, one of which the participants were shown two statements, the former contained one statement written down ‘one child’, and the latter with ‘eight children’. Afterwards, the participants were given an option how much money they would like to donate after taking a brief look at these statements. In the end, most of the participants decided to ‘donate’ 11 dollars on this ‘one child’. What about these ‘eight tenderlings’? They only contributed 5 dollars each. Thus, another test was conducted. The participants were again shown posters, but this time, there were 3. The former showed one girl from Mali named Rokia, the latter was a statement with ‘hundred thousand kids in Africa are starving’ sign, and lastly, the other showed Rokia’s picture and the statement, all combined. In the long run, the participants were willing to donate 2.25 dollars for Rokia, but were only disposed to give away 1.15 dollars for these so-called ‘statistical lives’, and the individual amounts of money given only slightly improved after responding on the third poster, in which they bequeathed 1.40 dollars for Rokia and these children combined.
Slovic concluded, as quoted by one article I copied from bigthink.com, like this, “As the world watches but, insufficiently moved, fails to act to prevent mass starvation or stop genocides in Congo or Kosovo or Cambodia or so many more, who would not agree with such a lament. But as heartless as it seems to care more about the one than the many, it makes perfect sense in terms of human psychology. You are a person, not a number. You don’t see digits in the mirror, you see a face. And you don’t see a crowd. You see an individual. So you and I relate more powerfully to the reality of a single person than to the numbing faceless nameless lifeless abstraction of numbers. “Statistics,” as Slovic put it in a paper titled “Psychic Numbing and Genocide”, “are human beings with the tears dried off.”
What’s more, Slovic also pointed out that another ‘fundamental deficiency in our humankind’ is that we often respond ignorantly on calamities that have been taking place for many years, or decades. This is logically straightforward to explain, as of my perspective. We are often told that for every problem, there is a solution; as soon as there is a will, there is always a way to solve it. But so many things in the world have happened for a very long time, and there are too many matters to be solved. When we have attempted myriad times to solve a problem, but it turns out to be unchanged, or to a lesser extent, worse, the highest probability we would conduct is to leave this business alone, and let others accomplish it.
To sum up the note, let me pick up someone’s quote. Once Joseph Stalin, the all-time notorious-yet-respected leader of Soviet Union, said like this: one death is a tragedy. One million deaths is a statistic. Steve Jobs’ death has been one example; numerical figures, no matter how Cyclopian they are, do never have emotional power like one does. At this perspective, Stalin’s quote wins the debate.
For more understanding about human’s ‘fundamental flaw’, click here.