Against Data

Setting: Facebook comment

I can understand that seeing numbers give consolation to people. But why should it be? As if data alone already speaks of the truth.

On Facebook people are bringing up their own data. “This is more recent,” one said. “This is a much more credible source,” others said. “This is by an independent source, a dogwatch,” another said. But isn’t context what we all need?

At the end of the day, after all, their conclusions about which side of the political party they support still unshaken, based on the data they prefer.

I find data, at a time of misinformation and over-flowing of information, to be highly irrelevant, and even a victim to flawed, biased argument. The data itself might not be incorrect, no, but the amateur interpreters allow no open-ended answer to this finding. He doesn’t allow a door, a window, and not even a single light to give his data a different perspective.

Perhaps this is an extreme case, especially because most, online, will appear to allow some lights into his arguments, for the sake of politeness.

But the cycle continues, and at the end of the day, no one really knows the answer. Except that you believe to be true.

I myself am horrendous at reading data. And perhaps this small rant is just a small jealousy to those that actually have time for research and make their own conclusion. “I have done my own research,” some would say in the comment section. I haven’t, to be truly honest with you. And I’m a bit embarrassed of that because people from different sides pull me into different directions, and I don’t have a center to pull me back.

The only center I have is this deep discomfort when arguments are clouded with anxiety, fear, and anger, and that’s where I run away from. I am not good dealing with other people’s negativity, especially when solution is not in the near sight.

I guess, what is sitting in the opposite site of data is practice. What’s sitting in the opposite side of data is the microclimate of our own situations. When data gives little clue to this, it’s time to stop the intellectual debate.

I can understand that we were all scrambling to piece together and understand the situation as it was happening, but at this point in the COVID19 situation, there’s few new things to learn. We all already know what we need to know to respond.

That enforced lockdown, combined with autocracy works (China). Without some autocracy, it’s slower (Italy).

That if you don’t want to enforce lockdown, the best thing to do is to give free testing (South Korea).

That many countries hide and suppress the number, usually not to stir panic (Indonesia).

That highly dense developing countries face its own challenges too unlike developed country (Indonesia, India).

That employing lockdown in developing country is a lot more complicated (Indonesia).

Dichotomy exists and it’s best to embrace the grey area, and not to lean on data that can only offer so much variable and won’t give the full context. It’s disheartening when we begin to put those in the high authority as evil. It leaves no room for hope. And at a time like this, isn’t hopelessness the thing that we want to avoid the most?

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