The danger of statistics is that they turn an individual into a number. A few days ago an article in the New York Times addressed the rare blood clots that some women develop after receiving the Johnson and Johnson covid vaccine. The response of the cited physicians was telling. Many praised the decision to halt use of the J&J vaccine immediately. Others, however, point to the numbers. If a vaccine is halted many more could be exposed to and contract Covid-19. It is better, they aver, to take the statically smaller risk and use the vaccine. While I understand the logic here, I do wonder if the side effects occurring primarily in women has anything to do with the reasoning. Why not save this vaccine for the men instead?
This raises once again the specter of consciousness. Statistically the odds are small that a woman will develop a clot. What if you are the woman who does? This dilemma always bothered me while camping in the woods. Statistically black bear attacks are rare. How does that help you if your tent is one that looks like a candy wrapper to a bear of little brain? You become a statistic instead of a living, breathing, feeling, blogging person. Statistics. There’s a reason some of us identify with the humanities, I guess. I can imagine what it would be like to have your doctor say to you, “Sorry, this is rare, but look at the bright side—you now become a statistic!”
The fact is we’re all statistics to strangers anyway, the government above all. We are vote-bearing numbers to be gerrymandered and prevented from voting. Beyond that we’re merely annoying. This pandemic has introduced Stalin’s accounting with a vengeance. 542,000 is a big number. Unless you know one or more of them personally. Then the statistics seem to melt. Life is full of risk, of course. We’ve barricaded ourselves in our homes for over a year now, eating things that are likely more dangerous for us than a rare complication. The virus, and perhaps some vaccines, are among various killers on the loose. Nobody can declare with any certainty the correct course of action. Actually doing something about the virus when it was first a known threat would’ve helped, of course. We find ourselves on the brink, it seems, of getting Trump’s disease under control. Would that we all could do so, without having to worry about lying down to be counted.