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1 Victim, 2 Victims, 3…When do we stop caring?

i-ACT’s Gabriel Stuaring, James Thacher and the Little Ripples team are in eastern Chad documenting the stories of Darfuri refugees and opening the first Little Ripples’ center. This trip, i-ACT #16, coincides with the 10th anniversary of the start of the genocide in Darfur and the more recent influx of 300,000 new refugees into the region.

I’ve been rereading a presentation, The More Who Die, the Less We Care, by Professor Paul Slovic, about what he calls “Psychic Numbing,” our inability to respond to violence and suffering that is massive in scale. It goes against our nature. We have evolved over millions of years to care about protecting the individuals that are right next to us, the ones that promote our own survival and the survival of our genes. Of course, the world has changed just a bit from when our ancestors lived in caves or in the plains.

Slovic presents studies and experiments that show how, as soon as the number of victims or individuals that need help rises from one to two, people’s willingness to participate drops. As the number increases from two to more and then up to larger and larger groups, we become numb and paralyzed. We fail to act at all. We see value in saving the individual but not the masses.

If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at one, I will. Mother Teresa<