Somewhere during the beginning of this pandemic I heard two streams of arguments at the workplace. The first was skeptics telling me that the fatality rate was less than 1% and people were overreacting. The other was the extreme opposite — predictions of doomsday. But amidst all the meetings we attended and the endless documents received in my email, one statement remained on top of my mind. “By the time this is over, we will all have lost someone we know. There is no way we can escape this.”
I completely abhor statistics. Not simply because I don’t understand them. Not just because these numbers can be twisted to defend what you want to project. (I agree with Mark Twain when he says: “There are three kinds of untruths in this world – lies, more lies and statistics.”) But because I have been in the medical field for long enough to know that diseases don’t read textbooks. I have seen hundreds of so-called “exceptions to the rules”. People who weren’t expected to have a cancer. People who shouldn’t have succumbed to a heart attack. People who didn’t have a family history or a risk factor. People who should have been alive.
I have no respect for number crunching academicians who can provide no solace except quote cold numbers when you are watching a loved one slip away. I have no patience with governments who treat the poor and powerless differently, because their voice doesn’t matter when the election statistics are evaluated. Because numbers are cold and meaningless. All that matters are real individuals and the warmth they emanate.
Every person who is lost matters. Every person who is failed matters. You cannot erase identities and sweep them under the ugly blanket of statistics. And just because something hasn’t happened to you, you cannot smirk and wash your hands off it. Because tragedies do not understand our artificial divides. And death doesn’t read statistics. Those ominous words echo in my ears again. “We will all lose someone soon.”
I should know. I lost a loved one today. The ache is greater as he was far younger than me. And he is never going to come back. Will he be just another random statistic, I wonder?