Talkin’ Bout my Generalizations

My mom and her husband keep talking about generalizations. When is it okay to generalize? Is it okay to make generalizations about people who come from a certain area (jingoism), wear certain clothes (classism usually) or have a certain shade of skin (racism)? What about people born on a certain day (astrology) or people of a certain personality type (enneagram, type a-b, love type etc.)? Can something be racist and also true? Do we learn more when we make generalizations or when we don’t?

I took an academic writing class where they talked about how there are only two academic theses: the first type says that things are simpler than they look, to generalize and say that everything fits into easy boxes, the second type of thesis says that things are more complex than they look and a previous author was missing some crucial piece of information when they made their generalization. My thesis was sort of the 1st type, in retrospect I think it should have been the 2nd. As humans I think we make generalizations on our own, generalizations are easy; what’s hard is dealing with a more complicated situation.

I think it’s important as a friend to keep others from oversimplifying [our friend], to continue to complicate how they’re perceived by others. It’s our job as friends to pay attention to detail, because we remember details of the things we care about, and by definition we care about our friends. I regret the times I told simplistic narratives for a complex friend. I felt hurt when my friends oversimplified me. You know the expression K.I.S.S.- Keep it simple, stupid? I say keep it complex, yes, convoluted ideas are hard to follow, and it takes a huge amount of skill to edit them down to their essence, but simple if simple is hard, complex is harder. Complexity makes us grow.

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