current | archive | contact | profile | notes | diaryland

2:13 p.m. 2010-01-02

In which Matt makes a sweeping generalization from very little information

Little things are easy to make too much of. I believe that metaphors are the foundation of everything that we know, and if you want somebody to understand something, they are the very best way to pass on information. I understand how these two things work together, and when I see two other things I’m going to be checking to see if they work together in the same way.

So, when I think I spot a new relationship operating, sometimes I get excited and make to much of it. When I was carrying a big clay pot down the street, and I received looks of disbelief from the people that I passed by, I got excited. I thought “I just picked out the difference between Nigerians and Americans.” That was a rush of discovery, and it really was taking things to far. BUT…

Let me play a thought experiment. Can you imagine Bill Gates and Warren Buffet cooking at a BBQ? Can you imagine Shaq, Peyton Manning, or Bill O’Reily pulling holiday decorations down from the attic in boxes? Can you imagine Hillary Clinton or Saundra Day O’Connor going around behind their house and bringing in a big load of fire wood?

If you saw them doing these things in real life, I bet your reaction would be the celebrity “Hey, I know that person” reaction, and what they are doing would be totally incidental to that. While I was in Spain I spoke with somebody who had once worked for a tabloid mag that had just gotten a new set of Jennifer Aniston pictures. In these pictures, Jen was walking her dog and carrying a small black plastic bag. When Jen does something, particularly back then, it made fashion ripples, and so the editorial board was trying to figure out what this little bag was. Of course, it was a dog poop bag, but when told about it, they simply could not believe that Jennifer Aniston (or maybe it was J-Lo, you get the point) picked up her dogs poop. In the US, if you leave your dogs poop in the park, people are just as shocked to see you walk away.

Generalization? Yeah. I’m speaking with some very gross generalizations. And whenever you do that, people can switch the conversation to specifics and make your generalizations look wrong.

When I walk down the street carrying something, or even when I walk down the street at all, people are surprised. White people have cars, drivers, and send people to buy and carry things. This is true because white people are rich. Rich people have many different things that make life easier for them. A rich mans life doesn’t involve walking, carrying, or other hard work. Being rich means not having to work.

It is easy to make too much of that. The protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism might be a good piece of reading here.

previous | next | archive