Generalisations and reductionism
(Sorry, I don't have time to make a nice layout.) In a discussion about "Myths about Muslims", Shane asked: Why generalise ever?
The Emperor (SRK)
7/5/2006 5:18 AM
"Why generalise EVER?"
Typecasting and generalisatios happen all the time and is perfectly acceptable. The entire marketing branding business runs on generalisations. Every person who generalises knows that whatis being said is not applicable to 100% of the population sample being referred to.Thinking that is absolutely immature really.
I hate generalisations in general 7/5/2006 5:51 AM
SRK I think on the generalisations thing, I have been the exception to so many generalisations over the years - about children, teenagers, adults, men, Irish people, Europeans, social class, heavy metal fans ( ) and so on - that I began to think that generalisations were just bullshit dishonesty.So perhaps my aversion to them comes from my personal experience. It gets annoying when people CONSTANTLY make wrong assumptions about me based on the above criteria. So I avoid doing it to others.(Ha ha, actually if I was to generalise about the Muslims I know I would say - friendly, enthusiastic, highly sociable, music-loving, artistic, tolerant, peace-loving and easy-going. Seriously! )
7/5/2006 6:14 AM
I think generalisations should be avoided as much as possible.It is possible to present statistics, like: In Holland 30 percent of the Christians goes to church every Sunday (I don't know the real percentage).But it is wrong to say: You are a Dutch Christian so your are this type of person who never goes to the church, I know you people.
7/5/2006 6:25 AM
So go play some cricket, eat curry, worship some multi-armed god, work in a call-centre and hate Muslims like all the rest of you Indians SRK!(In case it's not completely obvious - I'm totally joking! Now I'm off to track down a leprechaun who owes me money... )
7/5/2006 6:34 AM
"You are a Dutch Christian so your are this type of person who never goes to the church, I know you people."
Generalisations are not rude as you make them to be. It is just your resistance to be clubbed into a group, for fearing of losing you individuality that makes you rebel against the concept of generalisations. If only 30% of the Dutch Christians go to Church, then it would be a valid generalisation if somebody were to say that Dutch Christians don't go to Church.When one deals with factual accuracy, it has to be backed up accurately and with a source.Nevertheless people are welcome t their biases and prejudices against 'generalisations'.
7/5/2006 6:40 AM
"work in a call-centre and hate Muslims"
A very tiny proportion of Indians, even in orkut, work in call centres or hate Muslims. This part of your statement is patently wrong and that is an incorrect generalisation.Besides, you spoke your thoughts out, masked in a light hearted vein - no joke.
7/5/2006 7:17 AM
"Generalisations are not rude as you make them to be. It is just your resistance to be clubbed into a group, for fearing of losing you individuality that makes you rebel against the concept of generalisations. If only 30% of the Dutch Christians go to Church, then it would be a valid generalisation if somebody were to say that Dutch Christians don't go to Church."
I rebel indeed because my individuality is reduced to a category. It is very well possible that I belong to the 30% percent who goes every week without any exception, then I feel insulted when you assume that I don't go to the church (this is all just an example still, I don't really go to church).And if 98% of the Indians like cricket (not that that's a realistic percentage) it is still possible that you belong to the 2 percent who hates it
Myths about dividing individuals into groups 7/5/2006 7:54 AM
If there was a newspaper headline saying "DUTCH CHRISTIANS DON'T GO TO CHURCH" I wouldn't be too bothered so long as the first line read:"A new study shows that 70% of Dutch Christians do not go to church..."
The newspapers have an excuse in their headline because there is a shortage of space that they can make up for by being specific within the body text. There's no such excuse for people on orkut - all they need to do to VASTLY increase the accuracy of their statement is to add the words "some," "many" or "most" to the statement Anyway at what point does a fair generalisation become an "unfair generalisation?" Supposing 40% of Dutch Christians go to church? Or 49.9%? Is it still okay to say they don't?In China there is 1.06 males for every 1 female.http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ch.htmlDoes that mean it's a fair generalisation to say that Chinese people are men?
7/5/2006 7:58 AM
I agree with Esther and Shane that generalisation should be avoided as much as possible but I dont agree when you say "some are bad and most of the muslims are good". Definitely the acts of fanatics don't represent the majority but there is no doubt that majority of the muslim population is brainwashed and are easy targets for the fanatics
7/5/2006 8:02 AM
Fair enough Prateek. You're right there in India with a high Muslim population and many Muslim neighbouring countries so I imagine you'd know more about it than me so I can't really say.
7/5/2006 8:22 AM
"I rebel indeed because my individuality is reduced to a category. It is very well possible that I belong to the 30% percent who goes every week without any exeption, then I feel insulted when you assume that I don't go to the church (this is all just an example still, I don't really go to church)."
When you personalise, that is where you are wrong. When the generalisation is about Dutch Christians it is not about you. You cannot infer from the generalisation that I mean that you don't go to Church.
7/5/2006 8:25 AM
"Anyway at what point does a fair generalisation become an "unfair generalisation?""
It becomes an incorrect generalisation, when the generalisation lends itself to misrepresentation. Knowing when to draw the line while generalising is important and that requires maturity, honesty and skill.
7/5/2006 8:26 AM
"Does that mean it's a fair generalisation to say that Chinese people are men?"
People who don't know how to use generalisations, shouldn't obviously use it!
7/5/2006 8:33 AM
That's it, generalisations in newspapers because of lack of space is fine, reductions of an individual to a category is not ok.
(as long as the generalisation is based on research and the real numbers are mentioned as well)
7/5/2006 8:39 AM
Why not say "MOST Dutch Christians don't go to church?"Why do you have to say "Dutch Christians don't go to church?"If I made a generalisation like the latter one in an article my editor would kill me.