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GRUESOME ACTS



"In the last decade we've seen the cult of statistics gain ground (or perhaps it just seems that way to one whose distrust has grown so over the past decade) both in popular culture and in news reporting. The fact is that numbers are the perfect way to dehumanize tragedies, to make us cling to imaginary patterns in the chaos, and to draw emotion out of political life. I associate this primarily with the growing right-wing dollars-and-cents view of the world that can argue defence strategies in terms of casualties so coolly."

Jim Martin reviews The Gruesome Acts Of Capitalism, by David Lester of the rock band Mecca Normal.

COPYRIGHT © 2005, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

David Lester, The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism, Arbeiter Ring

I hate statistics. In college I took an elementary stats class that gave me an A and reminded me of just how much I hated statistics. Any thinking person will view statistical analysis in one of two lights; either as near-random numbers whose goal is to spin truth or as an emotionless means to view the decision-making process.

In the last decade we've seen the cult of statistics gain ground (or perhaps it just seems that way to one whose distrust has grown so over the past decade) both in popular culture and in news reporting. The fact is that numbers are the perfect way to dehumanize tragedies, to make us cling to imaginary patterns in the chaos, and to draw emotion out of political life. I associate this primarily with the growing right-wing dollars-and-cents view of the world that can argue defence strategies in terms of casualties so coolly.

The Gruesome Acts Of Capitalism is an equally manipulative book of statistics, but rather than attempting to isolate the reader from the emotional impact of the facts represented, its aim is to parallel those facts to make them offer that eye-opening punch of emotion.

Whether it's pointing out that the cost of providing primary education to everyone in the developing world equals roughtly 50% of what the US spends annually on children's toys or the fact that polluting companies in the United States are paying 64% less in fines each month since the election of George W. Bush, the end result is to use statistics to humanize their subject. And it works.

So I guess I don't hate statistics, I just wish there were more books like this that use them with a little humanity to show us how the world really is, not just to justify our lifestyles and ignorances.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Martin is an editor-in-chief and the webmaster here at 3:AM and fronts the punk rock band Johnny Incognito. His stuff has been published in a variety of places, including Images Inscript, Newtopia Magazine, Scapegrace, and Canadian Content. He is a computer nerd, a political activist, a loudmouth, a father, a husband, a singer, a writer, and a twat. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he spends way too much time doing things that don't pay him money.





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