Kansas Progress Institute

Ad Astra Per Aspera ~ To the Stars Through Difficulties

The Lack of Unifying Response To a Tragedy More Fatal to 9/11

Posted on September 12, 2016

By David Burress

As a semi-autistic hyperrationalist, I’ve always had a hard time understanding the sentimentality over some 3000 one-time 9/11 deaths that leads an entire nation into multiple dishonest wars, while utterly ignoring, for example, recurring deaths approaching 300,000 per year caused by various bad medical practices.
And yet, on reading about the emotions of a sculpturer dealing with twin towers artifacts, I felt a sensation in my eyes suspiciously similar to tearing up. There is something about concentrated and shared human tragedy that trumps isolated and distributed tragedy, even when the distributed tragedy exists on a vastly larger scale.

In many cases, this reaction has a rational basis. A single mass tragedy can be addressed with a targeted social response. We can all work together to do something about it. Distributed tragedies on the other hand seem to call for many distributed, unrelated responses. An individual can contribute usefully to single cause, but seemingly cannot do much about 300,000 unrelated tragedies.

Except that medical errors are not unrelated tragedies. They result from systemic failures, systematic bad practices, inadequate incentive systems. For example, hundreds of thousands have been killed by simple failure of medical workers to wash their hands. I think we should be putting more effort into reducing medical errors and less effort into killing terrorists.

Now I grant there are important differences between intentional terroristic murder and nonchargeable medical homicide. I do not grant that our extreme and counterproductive reaction to terrorism has been rational, but that is another discussion.

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