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Steady on the helm

December 4, 2015

During most of our evolutionary history, the surroundings that mattered to our band, our tribe, our family did not extend more than a few days walk, or concern more than a few hundred people. Now, we live in nations crowding a small world, with a media that flashes onto our screens every interesting or relevant event. Especially the horrific ones.

More, most people don’t deal well with rates and risk. One the broadcast channels yesterday spent a few minutes allowing an “expert” to tell how to survive an active shooter situation. An American’s odds of facing a mass shooting is minute. Right down there with the risk of being struck by lightning. Much less than the odds of being shot by someone you know, for more prosaic reasons. And the risk of that is at the lowest in our lifetime. Gun crime has declined in the last twenty years, continuing a decades long trend.

I suspect most Americans would guess otherwise. Especially after several mass shootings in a short period of time grab the headline news. We live in the present and react to tragedies as they occur. But in terms of actual risk, the day after is not much different from the day before. Trends over time are detected by the boring business of statistics, not the excitement of current news.

Don’t let the immediacy of the media frighten you with every sensationally violent act. Or fool you into mistaking today’s hot news for something greater than it is. Care. And keep perspective.

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