Not quite sure whether this post qualifies as whimsical or just plain rude. Or maybe something very very human that we are all guilty of.

I got a better perspective of math in the last week than in my life. When the pandemic first broke out, my family was sharing videos about exponential growth as applied in real life examples.

Last week, my personal epiphany was about fractions. “Didn’t we just cross the 1k mark? How is that we are now almost 2k?” Another three days later, “oh shucks, did we just cross to 3k?” After a while, I was like, “Oh. Did you notice 334 is a third of a thousand?” That is why every three days we passed a thousand. But wait for this – exponential got thrown into the equation very soon after. We had a third a day and two thirds the next day, “OMG. Today is two thirds, which means we reached a thousand in two days”. 😮 😥 and before we know it, “OH SHUCKS, today is almost a thousand in a day”. 😥 😥 and fuxsheets, we are now at 6,588. 😥
(To put things in perspective, we are a very very tiny island … compared to the big boys higher up the chart)

I am also feeling sad that when things hit at such humongous numbers, every person gets turned into a digit, a statistic. At the beginning of this crazy episode, every person was a person, we feel for him / her / them (be it sympathy for or anger towards). Even infographics feature them as a figure icon with little links to the next person(s). There was information on the life of this person as a person, where he/she went to, where he/she may have caught it. But now, with the whole long list everyday, even the listing of the Case numbers (every case has a unique number by chronological order) take up an A4 page for a dormitory. The patients are now represented by graphs, and the bigger clusters (dorms) are geographically represented.

When we get holed up at home, and news from all channels are focussed on just one theme, the competitive human being stares and watches the charts like a replacement for the Olympics medal tally. We were climbing up the charts like there was no tomorrow. Overtaking two countries everyday, and then three, and then four. And then lo and behold, we are now the ASEAN champion. 😥 At first it was, “yikes, we are closing in on M”, and then “it’s okay, I and P will maintain their performance, so we won’t be catching up so fast”, and then. Ding ding ding. I can hear the national anthem in my head.

Sometimes when things go way beyond our control, we can only watch it from a distance, distance ourselves from the emotional worry/angst/grief, and I guess the defence mechanism is to view everything all as numbers, just plain digits. 😥

Good news can take a little bit more personable form – Case 42 is out of ICU. Good job, fella, the entire country has been rooting for you. ❤

2 Comments Add yours

  1. The most vulnerable people are the worst affected everywhere, Ping. It seems inevitable that this virus won’t be contained if they are overlooked.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve written in here about what I think happens to our interpretations of circumstances when problems become overwhelming. Often, we turn to individual stories, narratives to personalize mass-scale problems with something we can understand intuitively at an emotional level… “case 42”. Sometimes, that can inspire people to action. But most of the time, I think it just results in unrealistic expectations when problems are big and complex.

    My dry and impersonal math mind understands the numbers reflexively, which has been extraordinarily frustrating when watching our own leadership revel in its technical ignorance. And there’s an astounding lack of data… in this country, anyway. Regardless, leadership isn’t generally technocratic, which can be both good and bad. This will be a fundamental cultural and economic “reset” for the entire world over the next several years, and an honest presentation isn’t going to inspire much in the way of immediate hope. So while the leaders of the world’s overwhelmed societies are determining how they’re going to distribute resources, it might be best to just focus on rooting for “case-43”.

    Liked by 1 person

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