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robertogreco : generalizations   12

Meta is Murder - Mills Baker's Internet Haus of Cards
"One such principle is well phrased by Marilynne Robinson in her essay “When I was a Child,” in her collection When I Was a Child I Read Books:
"It may be mere historical conditioning, but when I see a man or a woman alone, he or she looks mysterious to me, which is only to say that for a moment I see another human being clearly."

The idea that a human seen clearly is a mystery is anathema to a culture of judgment —such as ours— which rests on a simple premise: humans can be understood by means of simple schema that map their beliefs or actions to moral categories. Moreover, because there are usually relatively few of these categories, and few important issues of discernment —our range of political concerns being startlingly narrow, after all— humans can be understood and judged at high speed in large, generalized groups: Democrats, Republicans, women, men, people of color, whites, Muslims, Christians, the rich, the poor, Generation X, millennials, Baby Boomers, and so on.

It should but does not go without saying that none of those terms describes anything with sufficient precision to support the kinds of observations people flatter themselves making. Generalization is rarely sound. No serious analysis, no serious effort to understand, describe, or change anything can contain much generalization, as every aggregation of persons introduces error. One can hardly describe a person in full, let alone a family, a city, a class, a state, a race. Yet we persist in doing so, myself included."

"One of the very best things Nietzsche ever wrote:
"The will to a system is a lack of integrity."

But to systematize is our first reaction to life in a society of scale, and our first experiment as literate or educated or even just “grown-up” persons with powers of apprehension, cogitation, and rhetoric. What would a person be online if he lacked a system in which phenomena could be traced to the constellation of ideas which constituted his firmament? What is life but the daily diagnosis of this or that bit of news as “yet another example of” an overarching system of absolutely correct beliefs? To have a system is proof of one’s seriousness, it seems —our profiles so often little lists of what we “believe,” or what we “are”— and we coalesce around our systems of thought just as our parents did around their political parties, though we of course consider ourselves mere rationalists following the evidence. Not surprisingly, the evidence always leads to the conclusion that many people in the world are horrible, stupid, even evil; and we are smart, wise, and good. It should be amusing, but it is not.

I hate this because I am doing this right now. I detest generalization because when I scan Twitter I generalize about what I see: “people today,” or “our generation,” I think, even though the people of today are as all people always have been, even though they are all just like me. I resent their judgments because I feel reduced by them and feel reality is reduced, so I reduce them with my own judgments: shallow thinkers who lack, I mutter, the integrity not to systematize. And I put fingers to keys to note this system of analysis, lacking all integrity, mocking my very position.

I want to maintain my capacity to view each as a mystery, as a human in full, whose interiority I cannot know. I want not to be full of hatred, so I seek to confess that my hatred is self-hatred: shame at the state of my intellectual reactivity and decay. I worry deeply that our systematizing is inevitable because when we are online we are in public: that these fora mandate performance, and worse, the kind of performance that asserts its naturalness, like the grotesquely beautiful actor who says, "Oh, me? I just roll out of bed in the morning and wear whatever I find lying about" as he smiles a smile so practiced it could calibrate the atomic clock. Every online utterance is an angling for approval; we write in the style of speeches: exhorting an audience, haranguing enemies, lauding the choir. People “remind” no one in particular of the correct ways to think, the correct opinions to hold. When I see us speaking like op-ed columnists, I feel embarrassed: it is like watching a lunatic relative address passers-by using the “royal we,” and, I feel, it is pitifully imitative. Whom are we imitating? Those who live in public: politicians, celebrities, “personalities.”

There is no honesty without privacy, and privacy is not being forbidden so much as rendered irrelevant; privacy is an invented concept, after all, and like all inventions must contend with waves of successive technologies or be made obsolete. The basis of privacy is the idea that judgment should pertain only to public acts —acts involving other persons and society— and not the interior spaces of the self. Society has no right to judge one’s mind; society hasn’t even the right to inquire about one’s mind. The ballot is secret; one cannot be compelled to testify or even talk in our criminal justice system; there can be no penalty for being oneself, however odious we may find given selves or whole (imagined) classes of selves.

This very radical idea has an epistemological basis, not a purely moral one: the self is a mystery. Every self is a mystery. You cannot know what someone really is, what they are capable of, what transformations of belief or character they might undergo, in what their identity consists, what they’ve inherited or appropriated, what they’ll abandon or reconsider; you cannot say when a person is who she is, at what point the “real” person exists or when a person’s journey through selves has stopped. A person is not, we all know, his appearance; but do we all know that she is not her job? Or even her politics?

But totalizing rationalism is emphatic: either something is known or it is irrelevant. Thus: the mystery of the self is a myth; there is no mystery at all. A self is valid or invalid, useful or not, correct or incorrect, and if someone is sufficiently different from you, if their beliefs are sufficiently opposed to yours, their way of life alien enough, they are to be judged and detested. Everyone is a known quantity; simply look at their Twitter bio and despise.

But this is nonsense. In truth, the only intellectually defensible posture is one of humility: all beliefs are misconceptions; all knowledge is contingent, temporary, erroneous; and no self is knowable, not truly, not to another. We can perhaps sense this in ourselves —although I worry that many of us are too happy to brag about our conformity to this or that scheme or judgment, to use labels that honor us as though we’ve earned ourselves rather than chancing into them— but we forget that this is true of every single other, too. This forgetting is the first step of the so-called othering process: forget that we are bound together in irreducibility, forget that we ought to be humble in all things, and especially in our judgments of one another.

Robinson once more:
"Only lonesomeness allows one to experience this sort of radical singularity, one’s greatest dignity and privilege."

Lonesomeness is what we’re all fleeing at the greatest possible speed, what our media now concern themselves chiefly with eliminating alongside leisure. We thus forget our radical singularity, a personal tragedy, an erasure, a hollowing-out, and likewise the singularity of others, which is a tragedy more social and political in nature, and one which seems to me truly and literally horrifying. Because more than any shared “belief system” or political pose, it is the shared experience of radical singularity that unites us: the shared experience of inimitability and mortality. Anything which countermands our duty to recognize and honor the human in the other is a kind of evil, however just its original intention."
millsbaker  canon  self  reality  empathy  humility  howwethink  2014  generalizations  morality  nietzsche  integrity  marilynnerobinson  mystery  grace  privacy  categorization  pigeonholingsingularity  lonesomeness  loneliness  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  beliefs  belief  inimitability  humanism  judgement  familiarity  understanding 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Students Don't Need to Be Saved | A City Education on GOOD
"When you mention the South Bronx being one of the poorest congressional districts, it's easy to only associate the South Bronx with that fact. The result is that it minimizes all the great things in the community, and instead it gives it a single story: poverty. 

When I started my service year, I was exposed to a school system and circumstances largely different than the one I grew up in. Unknowingly, I gave the students a single story by associating them with terms like "underprivileged," and "inner-city kids." Looking back, I think it initially inhibited building relationships with some of my students because I was focused on "changing" them. I was unable to separate their actions from who they were. The student acting out in class wasn't just some "bad" kid. In reality, he was a kid with just as many hopes and dreams as any other student. Just because a student was acting out that didn't mean he had an unstable home life, uncaring parents, or other assumptions we make of the communities we serve. I was working with individuals who aspired to be athletes, pediatricians, and performers. The moment I realized that was the moment I actually broke through with some of them.

One of my students, "Alex," had grades that would make you think he was inattentive and no one to help him with his homework. Actually, he had a supportive dad and a little brother who looked up to him, he had a love of football, and, when he was focused, he had an ability to synthesize concepts in English class. Another student, "Jasmine," was often easily frustrated and distracted in class. It was easy to assume that was merely a sulky day-dreamer. She was actually a responsible big sister, had aspirations about singing like Mariah Carey (she often did so in class), had curls as quirky as her personality, and greeted me with a bright smile every day. She just needed someone to talk to and boost her self-esteem.

My students were more than their grades, their zip codes or their economic backgrounds. As the quote credited to an Aboriginal woman in Australia says, "If you have come here to save me, you can go home now. But if you see my struggle as part of your own survival, maybe, maybe, we can work together." This is a lesson I try to carry with me and remember before I make an assumption about the people I work with, or the thousands of people with different stories that I pass on the subway every day."
teaching  poverty  2014  susanvarghese  cityyear  chimamandaadichie  chimamandangoziadichie  generalizations  tohellwithgoodintentions  saviorcomplex 
march 2014 by robertogreco
'You Know Nothing of My Work' - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I think this is argument for "diversity" at our education institutions. Humanism in theory isn't enough. You need to be confronted with actual humans to really feel it. It has become increasingly clear to me that I am not a member of any "black race." That there is no such thing. I am, very much, a black person. This describes my history, my culture, my dialect, my community, my family, my collective experience with America. But there is nothing in my bones that makes me more like other "black persons" than like anyone else."
ta-nehisicoates  diversity  race  2013  humanism  theory  praxis  practice  people  humans  stereotypes  generalizations  culture 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Millsin' About [On Ricky Gervais's "Dear Religion… Yours, Science" tweet.]
"“Religion” isn’t a person; “Science” isn’t a person, and it especially isn’t a snarky person who believes in a specious, facile, tit-for-tat reckoning of evils and goods, since —after all— it is science which gives us the laser-guided missile, the atomic bomb, the crematoria gases, the bombers. It was indeed science’s race for ways to kill that gave us NASA —far more important than Neil deGrasse Tyson or even Neil Armstrong is Werner Braun— but the point is that this is not a methodologically sound analysis."

"But here’s the shit of it: the real basis of most of the mass violence in human history is something even more ubiquitous than religion. It is political-categorical thinking: the subsuming of humans into groups, the stripping from these groups of their “humanity,” the development of oppositional and “othering” rhetoric, etc. etc."
humor  antagonism  belief  thisandthat  rhetoric  humanism  rationalism  materialists  violence  neilarmstrong  neildegrassetyson  generalization  generalizations  grouping  snark  science  religion  rickygervais  2012  millsbaker 
october 2012 by robertogreco
naffidy: Andrea Zittel -----"These things I know for sure"
"1. It is a human trait to organize things into categories. Inventing categories creates an illusion that there is an overriding rationale in the way that the word works.

2. Surfaces that are "easy to clean" also show dirt more. In reality a surface that camouflages dirt is much more practical than one that is easy to clean.

3. Maintenance takes time and energy that can sometimes impede other forms or progress such as learning about new things.

4. All materials ultimately deteriorate and show signs of wear. It is therefore important to create designs that will look better after years of distress.

5. A perfect filling system can sometimes decrease efficiency. For instance, when letters and bills are filed away too quickly, it is easy to forget to respond to them.

6. Many "progressive" designs actually hark back towards a lost idea of nature or a more "original form."

7. Ambiguity in visual design ultimately leads to a greater variety of functions than designs that are functionally fixed.

8. No matter how many options there are, it is human nature to always narrow things down to two polar, yet inextricably linked choices.

9. The creation of rules is more creative than the destruction of them. Creation demands a higher level of reasoning and draws connections between cause and effect. The best rules are never stable or permanent, but evolve, naturally according to content or need.

10. What makes us feel liberated is not total freedom, but rather living in a set of limitations that we have created and prescribed for ourselves.

11. Things that we think are liberating can ultimately become restrictive, and things that we initially think are controlling can sometimes give us a sense of comfort and security.

12. Ideas seem to gestate best in a void--- when that void is filled, it is more difficult to access them. In our consumption-driven society, almost all voids are filled, blocking moments of greater clarity and creativity. Things that block voids are called "avoids."

13. Sometimes if you can't change a situation, you just have to change the way you think about the situation.

14. People are most happy when they are moving towards something not quite yet attained (I also wonder if this extends as well to the sensation of physical motion in space. I believe that I am happier when I am in a plane or car because I am moving towards an identifiable and attainable goal.)

15. What you own, owns you.

16. Personal truths are often perceived as universal truths. For instance it is easy to imagine that a system or design works well for oneself will work for everyone else."

[Also (only 1-14) printed here: ]
andreazittel  criticalspace  progressive  human  humans  sorting  dichotomy  dichotomies  categorization  patternfinding  patterns  generalizations  generalization  surfaces  maintenance  time  art  learning  filingsystems  design  rules  constraints  personaltruths  universaltruths  truths  happiness  movement  progress  attainability  goals  perspective  comfort  security  clarity  creativity  freedom  creation  choice  polarization  ambiguity  function 
july 2012 by robertogreco
You Can't Fuck the System If You've Never Met One by Casey A. Gollan
"Part of the reason systems are hard to see is because they're an abstraction. They don't really exist until you articulate them.

And any two things don't make a system, even where there are strong correlations. Towns with more trees have lower divorce rates, for example, but you'd be hard-pressed to go anywhere with that.

However, if you can manage to divine the secret connections and interdependencies between things, it's like putting on glasses for the first time. Your headache goes away and you can focus on how you want to change things.

I learned that in systems analysis — if you'd like to change the world — there is a sweet spot between low and high level thinking. In this space you are not dumbfoundedly adjusting variables…nor are you contemplating the void.

In the same way that systems don't exist until you point them out…"

"This is probably a built up series of misunderstandings. I look forward to revising these ideas."

[Now here: ]
color  cooperunion  awareness  systemsawareness  binary  processing  alexandergalloway  nilsaallbarricelli  willwright  pets  superpokepets  superpoke  juliandibbell  dna  simulations  trust  hyper-educated  consulting  genetics  power  richarddawkins  generalizations  capitalism  systemsdesign  relationships  ownership  privacy  identity  cities  socialgovernment  government  thesims  sims  google  politics  facebooks  donatellameadows  sherryturkle  emotions  human  patterns  patternrecognition  systemsthinking  systems  2012  caseygollan  donellameadows 
march 2012 by robertogreco
The American Crawl : “Chinese Communist bliss,” Alienating 11th grade Urban Youth, and the Danger of a Single Story Revisited
"I’m intrigued & troubled by the prevalence of stories like this one…fascinated by the voyeuristic look into the rigorous lives of “the other” while also concerned about what the prevalence of these narratives say in maintaining the competitiveness from a capitalistic perspective in the US…

I also think there is a danger in presenting this article in a way that ends up feeling like it’s a universal proclamation of the lived experience of an entire nation – not just a handful of individuals…

When we peak into the lives of the hardworking student, the secret sect of an alternative music scene, or even the inner-workings of gold farming, there is a danger in making broad generalizations and reporting them. While I don’t doubt the factual accuracy of the articles described here, I’m concerned by the way these articles function to further dominant, hegemonic narratives that inevitably distance communities, pressure communities, and fuel narratives of capitalism."
anterogarcia  generalizations  class  storytelling  chimamandaadichie  racetonowhere  china  education  narrative  capitalism  us  competitiveness  chimamandangoziadichie 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Go Forth And Travel - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan
"For many years, I have urged young people to take a year off after high school to work and to take time off while in college to travel abroad, ideally alone for at least some of the time. Nearly everyone grows up insular. The problem is that vast numbers of people never leave the cloistered world of their childhood. This is as true for those who grow up in Manhattan as it is for those who grow up in Fargo. And as for college, there are few places as insular and cloistered as the university."

"The moment you meet people of other faiths whom you consider to be at least as decent, at least as religious, and at least as intelligent as you think you are, you will never be the same."
tunnelvision  travel  yearabroad  cv  learning  perspective  generalizations  insularity  universities  colleges  education  religion  politics  groupthink  echochambers  via:lukeneff  dennisprager  understanding  conversation  listening 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story | Video on
"Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding."
storytelling  culture  africa  culturalbias  bias  media  generalizations  writing  literature  ted  chimamandaadichie  truth  complexity  voice  experience  classideas  stereotypes  partialview  perception  nigeria  dignity  preconception  misunderstanding  chinuaachebe  books  chimamandangoziadichie 
december 2010 by robertogreco
The Millennial Muddle: How Stereotyping Students Became an Industry - Student Affairs - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Those who have shaped the nation's understanding of young people are not nearly as famous as their subjects, however. That's a shame, for these experts are colorful characters in their own right. Some are scholars, and some aren't. Many can recall watching the Beatles on a black-and-white television, and some grew up just before Barney the purple dinosaur arrived. Most can entertain an audience, though a few prefer to comb through statistics.
millennials  scamartists  generalizations  stereotypes  strauss&howe  netgen  generations  digitalnatives  truth  labels  tcsnmy  callingthemout 
october 2009 by robertogreco

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