All societies, whether formed on a social or political basis are seen by the outside world through the lens of certain predetermined notions, which are based on the general perspective formed about their group. However, the members of these societies are human, who are born significant and special from one-another. So wouldn’t generalizing everyone with certain stereotypical characteristics be affront and threaten the true individuality of people?
Generalization, as the name suggests aims at making a general perception about any social, cultural, political or gender group based on facts, experiences, examples and logics. This process in fact is practiced by everyone whether voluntarily or involuntarily, mainly because it helps in setting standards for examining and evaluating certain social groups. Whether settling in a new culture or for studying any of the social groups, having a certain basic perception of the group is something, which is usually considered to be justified.
credits: Jessica Rowson/IOP
Actually, it’s only when the same generalization method is shifted from the macro to the micro level, which in these terms implies that from the societies to individuals, the problems of generalization are unfolded. When people look at each other from the eye of some determined prejudices of the parent group, which they belong to, the ‘generalization’ too transforms into ‘stereotyping’.
The stereotypes as such are directly negative interpretations, which are ascribed to those who don’t deserve it. If generalization would motivate you to take precautions while travelling at night because of the perception that the crime rates are high at night, the stereotyping would force you to think that every person you see on the road is a criminal. The excess of the biased ideologies may even turn us to be so stereotypical that we may be convinced to consider an unknown person living in a distant country as a friend, and a neighbour living in vicinity as an enemy.
A major concern of generalization is that just like treating individuals on the basis of their group is unjust, similarly thinking a person in the terms of absolute qualities like good or bad is equally undesirable. Thus, the famous English film director Ridley Scott once said, “Life isn’t black and white. It’s a million gray areas, don’t you find?” motivating people to see other people as reflecting many distinct qualities. It is a fact that most of us have grown up listening to stories in which two opposite traits: of goodness and evil are discussed, but the actual world is much wider and diverse than that. Thus, people shouldn’t be judged on the basis of the number of scars on their body, but an attempt should be made to feel their shadow.
It must be mentioned that the ignorance is the primary step towards severe hatred and exploitation. The holocaust of Jews in the Nazi Germany didn’t commence when the first concentration camp was build, but it started long before when the Jew community was generalized under certain hateful stereotypical norms, stooping to such levels that a general perception of hate was made against them, which gradually invited the deadly violence.
credits: Helmet Eschwege
We all may have a set of stereotypes embodied in our minds. We consider certain societies as ideal and others as barbaric, certain historical monarchs as just and others as demons, a section as the victor and others as the oppressed. With such ideas, we are making a mirage in our minds, which leads to not only our fall but also devastation of ideals of truth.
It is indeed agreeable that today we are living in a much diverse and intellectual world, where people are entitled to think and raise concerns on various topics, which are affecting their lives in one way or the other. Thus, having opinions on various topics is something, which we cannot and shouldn’t ignore. However, this does not mean that judging people on the basis of other’s actions should be allowed. People need to see others in the light of fellow humans and believe that in their body, a similar heart beats as it does in theirs.
Aashish Kochhar is a student pursuing History at Jamia Millia Islamia
Edited by: Maryam Ahmed
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.