...and why you should not be surprised to know somebody affected by crime.
Six degrees of separation refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is an average of six "steps" away from each person on Earth.
A fascinating game grew out of this discussion. One of us suggested performing the following experiment to prove that the population of the Earth is closer together now than they have ever been before. We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth—anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.
it is practically certain that any two individuals can contact one another by means of at least two intermediaries. In a [socially] structured population it is less likely but still seems probable. And perhaps for the whole world's population, probably only one more bridging individual should be needed." They subsequently constructed Monte Carlo simulations based on Gurevich's data, which recognized that both weak and strong acquaintance links are needed to model social structure. The simulations, running on the primitive computers of 1973, were limited, but still were able to predict that a more realistic three degrees of separation existed across the U.S. population, a value that foreshadowed the findings of Stanley Milgram.
I'm going to let the phenomena speak for itself. Given that a population as large as the United States should be able to connect within 3 degrees of seperation, what does that say about a small microcosm of a society existing in tight knit pockets such as white South Africans ?
Assuming there was only a tiny amount of violent crime in South Africa....let's is say 50 white murders a year (about 6-7 times less than the actual amount ?) then it is not only likely but highly probable that you would know AT LEAST someone who knew someone who was murdered. Be it a friend of a family member, a relative of a spouse, a mother of a child at the same school etc.
Given this it should never surprise you , even in a society with extremely low prevelence of violent crime to know someone or know of someone victim to it RELATIVELY well.
The tenedency then is to compare this to a past time when social networks were not nearly as broad. Or to take this perfectly natural phenomena of growing social networks and the increasing connectedness of people and cross referencing it and falsely correlating it with constant media insistance that crime is increasing.
It's certainly worth thinking about. Next time someone feautures in your local newspaper (for good or bad reason)I bet wth great ease you could find someone who knew that person (or someone close to them) within your social circles. Hopefully next time you want to drive yourself into a fit of panic just calm yourself and remember that anywhere in the world the same phenomena exists, just perhaps without the neurosis.