Our brains work and filter in interesting ways. We are rightly incensed by the murder of over 3000 innocent people by terrorists in 9/11 and spent $3 trillion on two wars to respond, though ultimately how successful they were I leave to historians to judge. What interests me are the cognitive errors that allow us to focus on something like 9/11 and not other much larger, more remorseless causes of unnecessary death.
But then each year, 70,000 people die from lung disease caused by coal fired power stations, 45,000 people die through lack of medical insurance, 100,000 die as a result of medical error, and car accidents kill 26,000 people and so on. And these numbers are happening each year so imagine the cumulative numbers since 9/11. Yet while we notice if someone we know dies in one of these ways; collectively we don’t notice the death toll from these undramatic, un-publicized, drip by drip lethal processes.
Now why is that? Is there no special interest group interested in these death tolls. There is no angle, no pay off? And the solutions don’t involve sending the military anywhere. Is no one really representing those with lung disease, with no medical insurance, with coal power stations nearby, who are victims of medical error or car accidents? Do they not count?
And of course the stats are massive if we include other countries. Imagine how many people die of lung disease in China where there is no EPA protecting air quality.