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"Gener(e)alizing", an Essay
I don't really see what the big deal about generalizing is. Thank God it's finally become politically correct to be politically incorrect (most of the political correctness was just hype from the media -- I never really saw that much political correctness anywhere). Generalizing has been given a bad rap even though it's so intensely useful and, oftentimes, rather accurate.
Part of my whole secret to being is my awareness and perception. I can say, without any arrogance, that I can sense things happening around me. It's where I derive my power from. I like to know where people are and what they're doing at all times. I'm a watcher, a lurker, a collector of information. Nothing is more fascinating to me than finding out things about people with and without their knowing. Researching people like study material may be a sickening idea to some, but I find it immensely fascinating. Nor the sight of a sordid spectre, or a beautiful and intelligent woman in my bedroom, or the deed to a million dollar estate would I choose if I had to pick between those or a glance at a divine being's records of people I see every day. To look at someone and see with fiery eyes through the skin and bones into the actual core makes my imagination frenzied. Alas, I'll probably never see any of the above-listed things, so I must rely on generalization to find what I desire. To look at someone for the first time and begin to place her into a category is not harmful to me. I can look at people and tell what style of music they listen to, and how conservative or liberal they are. I can tell where a person's from approximately from an accent, and I can tell which presidential candidate someone will vote for after speaking to them for awhile. All this will be reasonably accurate. Care to disagree?
Now, to hold a person to a generalization even after getting to know him is utterly disgusting. I will not argue that. First impressions are vital, and if you don't think so, take a walk down a dark alley at night and talk to anyone you meet with your wallet in your hand. After all, the person could be really nice, right? Generalizing isn't stupid -- it's just common sense.
And of course there are exceptions to generalizing. I think my point would be stronger in an earlier time period when everyone had predefined roles in society and there were few variations. Everyone else was just labeled as 'heretics' or 'witches'. But now, with cultural interbreeding and the hybridization of different races because of airplanes and global communication, (I'm sure that my being biracial has made me smarter, more open to different ideas, and healthier -- it's been proven scientifically to be true for biracial humans), generalizations are losing their bite. People apply to their categories even less now that they are exposed to different ways of life. Emphasis for generalization will rely less on looks and more on economic status. What does this signal? In short, it signals that we are turning into one global commercial culture. But that's another story for another week...
"Who came up with that nonsense?" Ben wrote, bitterly.
We generalize all the time. It's one of those things we never notice, like how you never notice that you've been reading this article for twelve hours now. That's right, twelve hours. So what if it's dark or light outside -- you'd just be generalizing, right? It could be a dark day, or a cloudy evening, or it could be a full moon or sunrise. Walk around and see how you associate qualities with people and things automatically. "Is all of this generalizing?" you may ask. Sort of, but basically yes. To say you never generalize is false -- you'd just be admitting your hypocrisy. So instead embrace generalizing and stereotyping, admitting that you've given in to first impressions and assumptions about well-being and social standing, but don't be sexist, racist, etc. about it.
It would be quite wise to use generalizing, if only to understand your opponents and friends. I use it to get the upper-hand when I meet people -- I make assumptions about the person's birthplace, economic standing, music preference, and so on. These assumptions are usually correct, but are molded to the person as I get to know him better. I break no laws here: I accept individuality, I embrace admitting being wrong, and I understand the gambling of generalizing. But I will continue to do it, and you can't think of one good reason why I shouldn't.
Or can you? Feel free to e-mail me, but make sure to address the e-mail to "Just Another Guy with Too Much Time on His Hands".
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