Paris Attacks and Dumb Statistics

I didn’t want to write about the Paris attacks as so much has already been said, discussed, written, and viewed. However, as a resident of Paris with friends from across the globe I feel compelled to write about how insensitive spewing of statistics undermines the horror and pain of the victims of the Paris attacks and of victims of all the other terrorist attacks in Beirut, Mali, Turkey, the Russian downed jet and other innumerable attacks.


The events of the past weeks will invariably cause post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) for hundreds of victims who were at the attacks and for those touched by the attacks. These events will invariably trigger strong emotions for others already suffering from PTSD.

We see threats and attacks happening in several nations and we pose rhetorical questions. Are we safe and are we safer here than in another country? These aren’t posed to seek guidance and input on whether or not one should move away from or leave Paris, New York, Brussels, London, Beirut, etc. These questions are posed to share the immutable reality that no matter where one resides, one cannot expect that they are safer than anywhere else.

Of course, we won’t stop living for fear of being attacked. We continue to take the metro, eat in cafes and on terraces, take our kids to school, go to the local theatres, walk the streets and parks. If we stop then we’ve let the terrorists win.

People spew statistics like…”oh you shouldn’t worry. You are more likely to die in a car accident or from cancer. Don’t worry, just keep on living.” I completely agree that we won’t let terrorism stop us from living but deaths caused by terrorism are incremental.

Some people may want to bucket terrorist attacks into statistics but they are always horrific for the victims. I’m not saying dying in a car accident or from cancer is not horrific for those who die and for their families but we’ve come to expect those as natural deaths in our society. We can drive safely; eat better food, exercise, and have a sense of control over these statistically consistent deaths. However, terrorism is random and arbitrary. The recent events of the Paris, Mali and Beirut underlines the randomness and the inherit brutality of terrorism.

If we categorize terrorist attacks as statistics then we’ve all agreed to accept them as part of normal life. Do we really want that?

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