We usually can be fairly certain that before the next paycheck comes, we’ve run out of money. It happens every month-the probability is high.
We can be fairly certain we’ll never win Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes, because millions of people are entered-the probability is low.
If the tires on your car have forty thousand miles on them, the probability is high that they’ll need replacing soon. This is just common-sense stuff.
Looking at the probabilities around our everyday lives is something we may do unconsciously. In the spring and fall, most people prepare for rain before we leave the house. In Seattle, we prepare for rain all the time.
In making decisions about how you are going to live, you do have to look at how often certain events occur. My brothers live about a half a mile apart in a nice suburb. One brother lives on a dead-end street, the other beside a busy arterial. The brother on the dead end street has never had a break-in. The other brother gets hit regularly. The brother on the dead end street doesn’t put his tools away in his garage, but he does lock the garage. The brother on the arterial puts his tools in a locked toolbox that is bolted to the wall. He locks everything and has an alarm system. We all make decisions based on how often things happen around us.
However, sometimes our sense of how often something happens gets warped. We read the news and watch TV where scenes of death, destruction and mayhem happen over and over daily. When a child is abducted, the news tells the story every fifteen minutes to every household in the country. Our brains take in this information as if it is happening every fifteen minutes in our own community.
I once had an online conversation with an otherwise sensible guy who insisted that it is common for people to break down someone’s front door, rush in, and murder the whole household. Yes, this does occasionally happen and it makes the national news because it is rare, but the news repeats the story over and over.
The events that make it onto the nightly news are not common. That is why they are news. It is tempting to look at the news and make the decision that you must worry about someone breaking into your house and murdering you. This is where conscious reality checks are needed. We need to stop and look at the numbers of times someone is murdered by a stranger breaking into their house. Really this seldom happens unless that person is cheating their drug dealer. Don’t cheat your drug dealer, that raises the probability of being murdered in your bed.
This distortion of perceptions is one of the factors leading to divisions within this country. We see the impact of the distortions on those who insist they need a gun with them at all times for protection. These people undoubtedly have some inner-insecurities triggered by news media repetition of violent acts and manipulation by the gun lobby. So, we have slightly hysterical population who will actually vote for one candidate over another because of a warped perception. They really need to sit down, look at the numbers, stop cheating their drug dealer, take several deep breaths and examine the probability of being murdered in their bed or assaulted in public-it’s low.
Our society is full of distortions that are used to manipulate public policy. When a new store announces they will hire fifty people and five hundred apply, the four hundred and fifty people who do not get a job are victims of mathematics and probabilities rather than reverse discrimination or immigration as the media tells them.
Really, when there are fewer jobs than applicants, some people are not going to get a job. Those seeking power will manipulate this truth to garner votes by blaming immigrants for the lack of available jobs. The voter or unemployed should ask, what is the probability of an immigrant choosing to live in an area of high unemployment? Have they seen masses of immigrants? If an area of low employment has immigrants, what is the probability they will move? They have already made one major move. Moving again to find an area of high employment, is more likely to happen than with someone who has never moved. This isn’t to say that some businesses in impoverished areas don’t encourage illegal immigration so they don’t have to pay full wages and payroll tax, but that is another story about greed.
I live in an area where sixty-thousand people a year are moving here because we have high employment. People do move to find jobs. The probability of an immigrant taking one of the few jobs in any given area is low, unless you live in Seattle then we need immigrants from anywhere to fill the available vacancies. The big complaint here is about finding workers.
People living in areas of low employment fear immigrants will take their jobs. Somehow, they don’t comprehend the idea of a shortage of workers in Seattle, and many areas on the west coast. They don’t stop and look at the number of job openings vs the number of available workers. They get angry over Seattlites clamoring for more workers and not being fussy over where those workers come from. Someone willing to manipulate voters is always willing to tell the worker in a low employment area that it is their job the immigrant will take, not the job in Seattle. So, the deadly divide grows based on manipulation, fear and misinformation about reality in other communities.
The decisions Americans are making that divide this country must be re-evaluated based on reality checks. People must look at the reality of numbers to see how reasonable or probable their fears and hopes really are. Also, turning off the TV is a fantastic first step to avoid being manipulated.