What do these numbers that impact our lives mean? How can we interpret a 3.4% mortality rate of COVID-19? Why do we feel statistically numb when we hear that 640,000 Somali children are starving? How can we make rational decisions while empathizing with the numbers? Well..here’s a human-centered approach to empathic analysis.
Let’s start this post by a short story…
Once upon a time, there was a 25-year-old woman named Shayena. Shayena lived on a planet in the chocolate way galaxy.
Her planet had lands and seas. It also had borders..not the natural ones, but the ones that get built using bricks and barbed wires.
You might wonder why?
But the answer to that question is not as simple as you imagine. Power, convenience, survival, greed, security, privacy and many other factors -or even a combination of them- may have impacted that decision.
The result of these domestic and international borders created the concept of us vs. them.
Who were “them”?
Sometimes a common enemy. A thief, an oppressor, someone you have to save yourself from. Other times, someone who’s living outside your borders. This person can live thousands of miles away or they can simply be anyone but you or your family.
With all these borders and distances, Shayena was still an empathic person. She cared about her family, her neighbors, her city, her country, and the world.
How do I know?
Well..when her father needed surgery she went beyond her way to take care of him. When her neighbor had a flat tier, she helped her with it. She would ride her bike to work to help reduce the traffic, and when she saw the Notre Dame fire -yes, the also had a Notre Dame- on the news, she cried and donated some money.
One might say, she was like the sun. Warming up everyone and everything around herself. But you see, even if you’re the sun, Neptune -the last planet in the solar system- would have a -353 Fahrenheit temperature. The distances, borders, and the size of the world population made it so hard for her to empathize with the world around her.
Media, internet, and the education system were supposed to help her learn about this diverse world. She was supposed to learn about cultures, similarities, and differences in order to become more and more empathetic every day and warm up distant countries with her intelligence and awareness. However, the borders needed to be maintained, and the maintenance needed a common enemy, and fighting a common enemy and persuading everyone that they had a common enemy needed the media, internet, and the education system to help build these concepts. And well..you can guess that media and its friends needed lots of money to be part of this plan. Long story short, they had to deal with capitalism.
And this hidden cycle never ended. As a result, Shayena never understood the true capacity of empathy within herself. She began to feel statistically numb about big numbers outside the borders.
151,888 died in Syria and she couldn’t even remember this number. Even if she wanted to react to this news, she would ask something like “isn’t that the place that always has a war?”… No Shayena! Syria has a rich cultural heritage built over 5,000 years that has been hidden since 2012 under the rubble of civil and political chaos. You would have known that if you were a true empathic human.
Education and media should have taught you how to look for the meaning of big numbers and react to it. You should have learned the human-centered approach of empathic analysis.
Empathic analysis means that we need to decrypt the meaning of big numbers to analyze the situations/events and their impacts.
Death of 151,888 people in one part of the world can mean that there are thousands of children who have lost their parents and thousands of mothers who have lost their children. It means that in 10–15 years we will have a generation that has been raised from wars and politics and that would impact your world -the world within your borders.
Once you become numb to the true meaning of the numbers, everything beyond the borders that visibly impacts your life becomes invisible. You don’t react to the news. You aren’t curious enough to decrypt the numbers that will directly or indirectly influence your life and the lives of your loved ones.
So how can you become an empathic analyzer?
Imagine, you read an article about a manufacturer of electrical transformers that has been dumping tons of cancer-causing waste along 240 miles of North Carolina’s highways. The article also states that the North Carolina government aims to clean up the waste by building a toxic waste facility.
If you were Shayena, you would probably be happy with this news. Because you care about other places in your country and you’re happy that NC government is helping with the situation.
But if you’re a true empathic analyzer, you will dig deeper to understand the hidden meaning of this news. With a bit of research and investigation, you will find out that their government has chosen Warren — a small, predominantly African American town — for the toxic waste facility. And if you dig deeper and analyze similar events and situations, you will see the dots between the climate crisis and racial justice.
A true empathic analyzer doesn’t panic or overreact but investigates the meanings numbers, news, and events even when they don’t visibly impact the lives within a border. She does that because she knows that the world events have cascading impacts that will influence thousands of lives that are important to her according to her value system as a human.
How would an empathic analyzer react to the COVID-19 situation?
She hears the mortality rate of 3.4% for COVID-19 and she cares about the impact of this highly contagious virus on different age groups, families, businesses, and communities. She empathizes with thousands of young children who will lose their parents, grandparents, aunts, and/or uncles. She will empathize with a few parents that will lose their children and loved ones. So she will do her best not to become a domino that will worsen the situation. Even if something does not visibly impact herself, her community, or her loved ones, she will care enough to follow the instructions that were given by the professionals.
Be an empathic analyzer. Live beyond the meaning of borders. Understand the meaning of big and small numbers. Ask questions, analyze, make rational decisions, and take care of yourself and the world you live in. We need empathic analyzers to teach social awareness and human-empathy to the next generations. We need wise people who are considerate, or else all of us will become statistically numb in a galaxy far far away.