Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Bureaucratisation Of Numbers

Last week while watching the kick off to the extremely, impotent Bosnian Butcher war tribunals and leaving aside the shock and horror I felt at the fact that, Mladic - who is due to stand trial on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his key role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities during the war in Bosnia- will continue to receive his monthly pension payments. It appears that the world pays for bad behaviour. Thus far he has pocketed about $72000 and counting. I guess Justice is a word better served to the poor and the non- European.

I got to thinking about the news in general and how one cannot help but wonder whether news watchers are sadists. We’re like those old aunties that press away at their little electronic tasbeeh counters the only difference being that we aren’t counting prayers. Or maybe we’re more like vampires (and here I don’t mean the effeminate high fashion meets Gucci model pasty white, Twilight types but the blood and gore thirsty monster types).

We seem to love counting the dead, the tortured, the raped and the wounded and the higher the numbers the better. Even as you read this, stories of the mass rapes in the Congo are making news editors drool even though the rest of the fighting and displacement has had dismal coverage in the global media.

The tragedy of course is that we never seem to go beyond the numbers to the fact that every digit represents an actual LIFE. Its history, hopes, dreams, love stories and its undone and unsaid. Apparently some philosopher’s already thought of this (man these guys leave nothing unnamed), it’s called the bureaucratisation of numbers*.

So no matter what the struggle or the circumstances were and no matter who you were or what you believed in, the only thing that will matter in the end is the number your corpse gets... a fitting memorial don't you think?

*Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906 – December 4, 1975)


Ridwan said...


I just heard about electronic tasbeeg counters two days ago.

I really need to keep up with technology. What's next, a cell phone that does the call to prayer.

Come to think of it ... no it can't be out already can it?

I like that you speak to the massacre and its tragedy by focusing on the life that was snuffed.

It is sad that we erase so much of the brutality by adding numbers.

Great thoughts. Excellent post.


desert demons said...

hahaha yip its the era of the smart phones and dumb asses

You sound a bit like the comrades locked up at Robben Island coming out of there and being in absolute awe of fax machines! How on earth could you possibly write a letter, pop the paper in a machine and minutes later find it in a machine on the other side of the world! :-O

The brutality goes on! I woke this morning to the sound of Ocampo salivating at rape as a weapon of war in Libya and going so far as to spread the propaganda that Qadhafi has time between ducking the missiles to import viagra and distribute it to ensure the rape goes on!
Rape is probably happening, on a wide scale - its been used as a weapon of war for centuries the world over but they have to make it more crude as they prepare to drag yet another african leader to the ICC!