Bruce bewails the inclination toward sweeping generalizations
So ex-Sen. Phil Gramm, now ex of the McCain Group, memorably declared that “Americans are a bunch of whiners.” Not a horrible call, really. I whine all the damned time. Seriously, if you’re not gonna whine about Bush and Cheney, well, you are simply not seizing the carpe diem, amigo. In fact, you’re missing out on a Golden Age of Whining! (Later, Gramm claimed he was talking about leaders, not the general populace. By that time, though, his head had been lopped off, before Americans could even ask for it. Which, of course, they would have, being whiners and all).
Gramm could have spared himself the politically correct guillotine if only he hadn’t made a mistake that’s so common these days: wading carelessly into the fetid, brackish waters of the Swamp of Generalization.
Loads of folks are being sloppier than mud hogs with their rampant generalizing. This could be the product of slishy mental capacities, made flabby by (what else?) way too much television and gossip. But whatever the cause, we’re hearing porous inanities such as “These kayakers come to town and they don’t spend any money,” “When it comes to geography, teenagers are morons,” and “Women are just looking for a guy with a five pound wallet and a three pound peacemaker” and not even stopping to reflect upon what a steaming heap of groat clusters they’ve just unloaded.
I mean, time out. This is unforgivably sloppy stuff to say. And people are doing it all the time all over the place. (Egads! Like that one right there!) Perhaps we’re taking our collective cues from ubiquitous radio talk show hosts, who should know better than to fall into these slovenly semantic pits. But it appears that lots of folks have forgotten the one and only thing they need to know about this particular realm of the language, and that is that ALL GENERALIZATIONS ARE BULLSHIT. Except, of course, that one.
It doesn’t have to be this way. With the application of one tiny little word, the ridiculous wrongness of yer basic generalization becomes an eminently supportable proposition. Even, at times, accurate. All one need do is remember to put the word “many” in front of whatever wild-ass, wild-eyed, raving declaration you wish to uncork, and guess what? You can get away with it!
Now, you say “MANY kayakers come to town and don’t spend any money.” OK. Wouldn’t waste a breath arguing against it. “MANY teens are dopes when it comes to geography.” Who would want to pick at that bone? “MANY women are searching for the big wallet/big unit combo.” I would dare to agree.
And finally, as we circle back to the ill-fated Mr. Gramm, “MANY Americans are whiners.” Damn, dude, I’m down. And you, Phil, would still have your cushy little campaign job.