Sweeping Generalisations

This is the first of what will be many rants on this site. This is my loathing of sweeping generalisations. Now, I realise that sentence in itself is contradictory, but why is it that the people who are ignorant about something completely dismiss it? I am not saying that I have never made any sweeping generalisations myself (I have a number of times purely to wind people up). We are all guilty of it, but I try avoid them, and back any decision or opinion I have up with evidence.

I can relate this to the two things of which I am most passionate about; music and computing.

Let’s start with computing. I am a Linux user, I have been for a while. That’s not to say I hate Windows, I just find I am able to do things in Linux which I am not able to do in Windows. Therefore it is a tool which suits me best. However, invert the situation and ask some (not all, I don’t want to make huge sweeping generalisations myself) Windows users why they have never considered Linux. The answer on the whole is “Linux is hard”. Not only is that statement a broad generalisation, it is actually untrue. People have been using Windows for a number of years (even the exact same OS for 7 years!) and are used to it. That doesn’t mean it’s easier. These people have probably never used Linux in their life, or at least not properly. Yet they dismiss it.

I have never really touched FreeBSD, and have only played with Solaris on a relatively small scale. I don’t use them. I would not, however, go around slandering or libeling them. At the same time, I can understand why people would use Windows (application support, gaming etc..), but I think people need to open their minds to the fact there is an alternative and not immediately dismiss it.

My second point is music. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a metal fan (as well as rock, classical, jazz…). Something that irritates me are the people who dismiss it completely (particularly those snobs who think of it as a lesser art form) by saying comments such as “it’s just noise”. Have they heard every band? I’m a metal fan, and I wouldn’t claim to know all the different types. It is a huge genre. These people are again dismissing through ignorance. They think they know what it is like, and it all must be the same, therefore they don’t like any of it.

I realise in this case, labelling has a lot to do with it. Yes, all these music types come under the “umbrella” metal, but in fact there are many subgenres, and even within subgenres there are differences (eg. I really like Freedom Call but don’t like Hammerfall). I am making this point not because I think this is something that’s unique to metal music, but because it is something that isn’t. Everyday people/ideas/art forms are being judged because they fall into a category.

I am not trying to change people’s mind in this post, all I am trying to achieve is make people think twice before they completely dismiss something and to provoke thought.

Rant over….

…for now.

  • Peter Spain

    You’re wrong. Very wrong. WRONG. And I say this entirely on the basis that you are a metal fan AND a Linux user. I bet you drink Ale too! Get a haircut…!

    Of course I am joking! A very good rant and I pretty much agree with it even if I do partake in a bit of alternative-art-form-i-dislike-bashing now and then.

    I suppose it is only natural to put down the things we dislike or consider inferior. That is not to say we should always succumb to it. You don’t have to have an open mind about everything, but at least keep it slightly ajar.

  • I agree with you, especially on the music part. I’m also a metal fan and I get the sweeping generalisation “metal is all about killing and death” quite a lot. My usual response is “have you actually heard any of it?”.

  • Sensible

    A rant which deserves it’s place on the internet I feel, as I too get particularly irritated when I hear sweeping generalisations. (No, spell checker! generalisations should not be generalizations – Rick, get editing the dictionary / source and make it recognise English!)

    The majority of computer users are Windows users with (most of the time) no knowledge of Linux’s existence. Now, on to those who do know about it, and within this category – the people who irritate me the most.

    Some people will try Linux, first hand, and give it a go. I like these people, open minds for open source. Things can go two ways here, they persevere with the (usually small) issues they experience, learn and stick at it – or they give up.

    These people who give up often go on to spread the sweeping generalisation that ‘Linux is hard’, so in pub conversations when somebody may raise the question of ‘Hey, has anybody tried Linux?’, this gentleman (or women, it would be a sweeping generalisation to assume all Linux users are men, wouldn’t it?) is more than happy to express his opinion: ‘I have, it’s a nightmare. I couldn’t get this to work, or this to work – I’d stay away personally’. Fantastic, Mr Educated – you’ve just scared off a potential addition to the open source movement through your own lack of determination and thought exploration, have a badge.

    We have two problems here, however. The people who spread the sweeping generalisation, and the people who believe it. Some people may here a sweeping generalisation and think for themselves, and try something for themselves. The ultimate sweeping generalisation award, however, has to be handed to these people: Those who hear a sweeping generalisation, and then begin to pass it on to others, with no education, knowledge or experience themselves on the matter.

    One thing to consider, with operating system choice, is that often somebody may choose to stay with the operating system they are using, not because an alternative is ‘hard’, but because the transition requires effort, patience and time.

    Regarding music, I completely relate the statement you’ve heard before of ‘It’s just noise’. I’ve heard it many times myself. You explained very well the detail of this generalisation and I agree whole heartedly.

    I think it boils down to education and attitude. I will never voice my opinion on a matter unless I have personal experience or knowledge to be able to back myself up (like yourself). When faced with a situation where somebody informs me about something I have no knowledge of, I bear in mind what they have said, but until I have investigated myself, it’s a just an opinion.

    Great rant Rick, and I’m really liking the website!