generalizations

June 30, 2007

I remember attending a conversation about youth culture at Aardklop about a year ago. There were three people taking part in the conversation, one really irritating, one quite interesting, and one of them really good. I can’t remember who they were, or which was which. But one of them, probably the one that I considered great, at one stage said that although we all agree that it’s impossible to make generalizations, if we don’t we cannot have a conversation.

The thing is, we get told that it’s wrong to make generalizations, but still, we all do it. Men are like this, or woman like that. Whites like this, and blacks like that. And yes, many times it’s sexist or racist, but not always. Sometimes, it’s just to get some common ground to work from. Kids make noise, yes of course some don’t, and of course there so exceptions to the rule, and we need to admit that, but don’t we need to generalize sometimes just to get going.

Someone is looking for a church, and we’ll tell them that the people at church X are generally friendly, yes, some might not be, but generally they are. Or the people at church Y are generally fundamentalistic, some might not be. You catch my drift?

Actually, this is more a kind of a question post. How far can we go? When is it wrong to make generalizations, and when not? When does it actually help us to make generalizations? Do we ever need them? When? I’m really struggling with this at the moment.

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3 Responses to “generalizations”

  1. Glenn Says:

    Cobus..

    Even to answer to address your questions, I would have to use generalizations. I know what you mean. The U.S. is a divided country because of the outlandish generalizations that politicians make and the media propagates. The same is true in the ecclesiastical realm. Your hear, church as we know it is self-serving. (I have said this.) You hear that emerging types don’t believe the bible. Generalizations create a fall guy and make a hero (the person making the generalization.)

    We have to use generalizations, because they are generally true. Yet, I think we can be a bit more gracious in stating that this is a generalization and there are some exceptions.

  2. aventer Says:

    We need generalizations. But maybe we can split the generalizations into two groups… “Good” and “bad” generalizations.

    Don’t know if this makes sence, but assume that the “bad” generalization is based on a bad experience… Coming out of a bad relationship and making the generalization that all relationships are bad, is a bad generalization. The reason why is becuase it mostly isn’t true.

    I think we make most of our generalizations based on the experiences we had. There will always be an exception, but maybe we use generalizations to understand somethings better. Yet we have to be carefull not to believe all generalizations, because every person is unique.

  3. cobus Says:

    Is good and bad the same as positive and negative generalizations? It won’t be a realist viewpoint to only use positive generalizations.


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