Things I saw today (counting)

July 30th, 2006 by amy

Today I saw an infographic of a coffin count of the deaths so far (Israel: 51, UN: 4, Canada: 8, Lebanon: 750) in the current conflict between Lebanon and Israel linked from the brilliant site, Information Aesthetics. This is the same site where I saw an animated visualization of Coalition forces deaths in Iraq (2,807). Note, these are Coalition forces only, not civilian casualties, which are estimated to be, as of this writing, at least 39,460.

39,460 is more than the population of the whole city of Columbus, Ohio; Fontainebleau, France or Dubbo, New South Wales. It’s difficult for me to conceive of this number of deaths, even moreso, that kind of loss. The population of the town I grew up in was around 3,000. To imagine the deaths of 39,000 would be as if everyone I ever saw until I was 17 years old, women, children, old men, strangers, all died more than ten times over.

I found myself mentally mapping just a fraction of the feelings I’d had at the recent death of a much liked and respected colleague when watching the Coalition forces animation. I found just that small amount of empathy informed my understanding to an uncomfortable degree (also uncomfortable, in an entirely different way, was my inability to sustain that level of empathy as the animation went on). It’s funny, (and pardon the following pun but it seems my mind does sometimes process things in puns), in this entry I find myself swinging from the abstraction of counting as a way of understanding something, to using what ‘counts’ to me, as a way of making something less abstract.

While I’m counting things, here’s a link to an image I’ve seen several places but which bears repeating from The Independent of which UN countries back an immediate cease-fire in the Middle-East.

2 Responses to “Things I saw today (counting)”

  1. Claire Says:

    Thanks for link to the Independent front page, Amy. Had missed it. Very interesting, your comments on the bizarre relationship between these animated visualisations, your own feelings of loss re your colleague and the ensuing realisation of the extent of the horror currently gripping the Middle East. Although we watch absolutely dire images of these wars every day, somehow the ‘infographics’ (?) – is that what you call them? featured here really drive home the regrettably outrageous and arrogant position of the UK and the States in these matters. My problem is, I don’t know about you, the feeling of individual powerlessness. Is the solution greater political engagement? How does that become a reality in the current context? (think GB, the anti-war protests and the total arrogance of the Blair gvt towards its people). I tend to be outraged and do nothing with my outrage, and hence feel lame. I guess that’s my problem…Anyway, I’ll shut up now. This is the first time I’ve posted to a blog, and possibly the last! ;-) It’s kind of hard not to sound like I’m pontificating. You never know, I might be back…

  2. amy Says:

    Hey Claire!

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. You don’t sound like you are pontificating at all. I am really grateful, in fact, when people comment as it is like a conversation (and feels less like talking to a wall).

    I feel similarly re: feeling lame and wondering what to do to that could make a difference. It is overwhelming. I don’t have any good answers. Sometimes just trying to keep up with the news feels overwhelming or demoralizing but I guess trying to learn as much as possible is important on it’s own. Continuing to be outraged, voting, etc., maybe. That and talking to others – so thanks again for posting and for your thoughts!

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