Notion: The Aggregate, The Personal

[These Notion blogs will be an erratic exercise in ruminating about those ideas that one gets while exercising or showering or running errands — the thinking that is too long for FaceBook and too short for reliable reference searching. An indulgence, in other words, of people who don’t have to think about childcare and cooking and budgeting too little money.]

Aggregate statistics and personal knowledge seem to me to be like liberal and tea party,  or union and business owners, or car owners and bicyclists. Seldom do the two parties meet and interact; or if they interact, they clash.

Both parties have legitimate points. And both, generally speaking, are working out of experience. That sounds contradictory, but speaking from my own understanding, if one (me, I mean) hasn’t got a dog in the fight or skin in the game, it’s easy to understand that, statistically speaking, the Affordable Care Act is working pretty well. If one (not me) is a small business owner, swamped with paper work already and now having to navigate a whole new set of rules and regulations, the ACA seems like just a bunch of hooey.

Newspapers aggravate this by beginning with the personal drama story followed up by the bad statistics, whatever they may be. Somewhere in the story the papers will, if decent, provide the statistical facts, which often contradict the tearful opening tale. But by that time, it’s hard for any of us except those who are committed to the other stance to see what the truth is. This is also the confirmation “error” — that we tend to believe what confirms what we already believe or know, but I think that’s a subset of the larger dichotomy.

The same kind of statistical evidence versus personal goes for things like exercise advice and the (younger) aged. I’m young enough to believe I’m one of the younger aged, but reading advice about exercise in our local papers’s Wednesday health section infuriates me. I can’t run five miles every other day, while weight-lifting and cross-country skiing on the alternative days. Heavens, I’m lucky that I have figured out a way to get on my exerbike for a 30 minutes of leisurely pedaling with lots of  days off for walks around the neighborhood. But of course, the health experts aren’t talking about all ages, however young. Their target  audience, according to the marketing statisticians, are relatively affluent 40-year-olds.

And don’t get me started on the question of “relatively affluent.” When I’m told that the middle class begins at about $500,000, I am infuriated, both statistically speaking (what does that mean about the majority of folks in our country?) and personally (never been there and not likely to get there in this lifetime).

In other words, if it isn’t meaningful to you personally, it’s really easy to believe the aggregate numbers. The ACA has made millions of people happier and safer in their personal lives, as has medicare. But some of my relatives are furious with what the ACA threatens to do with their paperwork pile as well as heightening their fears that this is the first step to a government takeover. They can see the personal effects of the impending disaster right on their desks. But I’m on medicare so I believe in the happiness of the aggregate.

And don’t get me started on the problem of home budgets versus government budgets.

And in general, I have never feared the bugaboo of socialism, while I have a deep-seated terror of fascism.  And so it goes.

One (me, I mean) thinks that if I, and the rest of the country, could adjust our personal experiences and weigh them along with the aggregate numbers, we might be better off. And if we (I, I mean) could remember that stack of paperwork and fear of (socialism/Fascism) those terrifying nightmares behind each tree, we might be better off. We might even get down to remembering each other in both the aggregate and the specifics — millions feeling safer because they won’t go bankrupt when their kid falls of the playground swings; paperwork drowning people who just want to do the work that is before them; — then we might be a better, more humane country.

Times up; personal notion explained, for the nonce. Feel free to throw out your own shower-driven ideas. Don’t send audio tapes, though.

I believe all blogs should have at least one visual so I will include at least one per post. Here’s today’s:  a self-portrait of David Hockney. It feels like a self-portrait.


David Hockney, Self=Portrait, from The Guardian Newspaper

This entry was posted in Portland. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Notion: The Aggregate, The Personal

  1. birdingbesty says: appreciation today of your writing, your thoughts, concepts, understandings, ruminating…a good morning read for me with a cup of chai tea. Also one of those “older” retired folks with a small retirement income and small Social Security check, medicare, supplemental insurance B & D, I listen to those young folks in my community who are for the first time able to get insurance, even though the state legislature has not embraced the Medicaid advantage for folks, families with kids who had from birth uninsurable issues and know that all the “surveys” that show how unhappy folks are to promote some seeking public office here in Montana, and I hear them all from where they are speaking. Women’s health issues that I believed had been lifted from the darkness of my life as a young woman listening to stories my mother and her friends were sharing are raging wild and ugly here.
    Finding a way to be in the company of folks pushing for a return to those, in my opinion, dark days as they speak at public lecterns and listen carefully, take notes and go home and do my research. Learning how to prepare letters to the editor, public presentations on issues that concern me with a strong inclusion of factual information and statistical data from identified studies is my task as I am once again an activist. More free time now, much like I had in my young years marching for Civil Rights and against the War in Vietnam, my voice comes through in poetry readings, in public events of protest, in letters to the editor.
    These times challenge those, like me, who desire solid facts, not innuendo or unsubstantiated data when speaking or writing on an issue of public concern. The challenge is giving my life great purpose…and your words today were received with much gratitude and appreciation.


  2. june says:

    Of course the ruminations will be deep and erudite — what do you think cows do whilst chewing. And by the way, are you planning on deep thoughts while chasing ice cream? Or better yet, while eating it?


  3. patgaig says:

    I suppose these ruminations were very deep and erudite. The problem is that way up at the beginning you made me picture you, in the shower, thinking. I quickly erased that image and read on. Then at the end you again made me picture you in the shower and I forgot everything else. Looking forward to future Notions. And. You gave me an idea. Going out for ice cream. Right now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s