Have you ever thought about the meaning of the word “generalize,” and how often we do it? How it can affect us as a society?
I’m sure we’ve always done it. But now, with social media, memes, 24/7 media, it seems to have grown exponentially, and, in my opinion, it’s caused the chasm between us to grow seemingly larger by the day.
- Cops are corrupt/racist.
- Protesters are thugs.
- People who wear masks are sheep.
These are but a few of the generalizations I see on a daily basis on social media. (I won’t even get into the political generalizations out there!)
Here are a couple of things I notice about generalizations:
- They (almost) always lump everyone/everything together as “bad.”
- The word “all” is implicit in every statement. We may not say it aloud when we generalize, but we certainly think it.
- The almost always lump everyone/everything together based on the “bad apples.”
William Blake’s quote is harsh, but I think it’s true. Generalizing is too easy and too convenient. It’s an “out” for us–a simple way of thinking that enables us to disregard the hundreds, maybe thousands of INDIVIDUAL stories in every group we generalize. If we’re honest with ourselves, generalizing–avoiding a more critical consideration of any “group”–truly makes us idiots.
We must consider the harm we’re doing to ourselves and to society. Generalizing is a form of prejudice. (And not all prejudice has to do with race.)
- Generalizations lead to black and white opinions. But the world is full of individual stories in a variety of colors we experience if only we’d go beyond the word “all.”
- Generalizing emboldens “tribe” mentality and our insistence that “we” are right, and “they” are wrong. But it’s all an easy lie we tell ourselves, because we haven’t taken the time find the truth–to try to understand the stories beneath the word “all.”
- It not only stagnates us, it rots us. If we don’t move forward with empathy and compassion gained by critical thinking and going beyond the word “all,” then bad apple generalizations will truly spoil the whole bunch.
The next time you hear the word “all” in your head:
- Question it.
- Research it. Look deeper
- Most of all, don’t form your opinion based on a meme.
If we take the time to learn stories rather than focusing on the “bad apple,” we can turn around opinions based on idiotic generalizations.
- (Not all) Cops are corrupt/racist. https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/05/31/sheriff-joins-protest-flint-michigan-police-eg-kj-orig.cnn
- (Not all) Protesters are thugs. https://people.com/crime/protesters-form-human-chain-new-york-target-prevent-looting/
- (Not all) People who wear masks are sheep. https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2020/05/25/top-10-excuses-offered-for-not-wearing-masks-despite-covid-19-coronavirus/#115b13db53d9