One of the most difficult things to do is to think. This is a tragic aspect of our life. The tragedy is further deepened because most of us are not even aware that we are unable to think for ourselves.
We live on borrowed thinking. We walk on mental crutches as it were. As a result, we carry prejudices wrapped in contradictions.
“It is the hardest thing in the world to be a good thinker” Shaftesbury “without being a good self-examiner.” One glaring feature of this crippling inability is seen in the way many of us indulge in sweeping generalizations, whether they concern books, ideas, films or persons.
One small, but significant, incident has remained etched in my mind, though a few years have passed since it happened. I was then reviewing films for popular English daily published from Chandigarh. I wrote one review damning all aspects of the film in the strongest possible words.
A few days later, I happened to meet the news editor, whose remarks stunned me, “I find it impossible to believe that you could not find anything worth a good word in the entire show.” He was right. It was a prejudiced review.
Such an approach makes things simple and easy for us, further reducing our ability to think. Sadly, this approach is not confined to trivial matters alone. In vital spheres of life, too, it results in extremely unpleasant and sometimes explosive situations.
It is easy to pin-point sweeping judgments, whether they are being made by others or by our own selves. “Mrs. P is a woman of easy virtue,” condemns the woman, sluts her name with one hasty thought and gleefully produces judgment. It may be a true statement. But what we are saying is that she is worthless, a social and moral washout and beyond redemption, which may be far from the truth. It amounts to saying that, in human nature, there are no subtle gradations; that there are only two colours, black and white.
Sweeping generalizations take another odd form. We have one unpleasant experience with a rude bus conductor,” so we go about saying that all conductors are rude. We repeat it all our lives. Similarly, we come across one dishonest shopkeeper, and decide to call “all” shopkeepers dishonest.
A person, who feels very strongly about drinking, remarks quite often that those who drink are “characterless” people, whatever the term means.