You may disagree, but it is my considered opinion that, as Alexander Chase wrote, all generalizations, including this one, are false.
It is said that in all matters, the exception proves the rule—‘proves’ being used here in the old-fashioned sense of ‘tests’ or ‘challenges’. And for every rule, I submit, there is always an exception.
Take, for example, the oft-quoted aphorism that a man’s best friend is a dog. Well, my best friend is my wife, to whom I’ve been married for many happy years, and no one has ever referred to her as a…..well, you know.
So, that generalization is false.
How about a woman’s place is in the home? Well, as I said, I’ve been married these many years, and never once have I so much as even harboured that thought. My wife would tell you her place is wherever she chooses to be at any given moment.
That generalization is also false.
Another piece of folkloric wisdom holds that behind every successful man stands a woman. I’m sure many successful men have been supported and encouraged by women, but I’m equally positive there have been successful men without influential women in their lives. The closest I can come to truth with this one is to offer that behind many a successful man stands a surprised woman.
We’ve long been told that chickens will come home to roost. I’m not convinced. After all, haven’t we also been regaled with tales about chickens who crossed the road? And why did they do that? Because, I think, they weren’t roost-ers. They had no intention of coming home.
Another false generalization.
You may also have heard that crime does not pay. If that is unfailingly true, someone needs to tell a certain flaxen-haired, orange-skinned world leader. So far, at least, he is giving the lie to that one.
It’s been a staple since Kipling coined the phrase in 1889 that east is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet. That’s fine for the flat-earth society, I suppose, but I believe the preponderance of opinion is that east and west are relative terms, based upon where one might be standing, and that the two do meet right there.
The generalization is false.
Then there is the old saw that familiarity breeds contempt. So, I’ll say again, I’ve been married to the same woman for a long, long time, we are quite familiar with each other’s fancies and foibles, and there is not an ounce of contempt between us.
That generalization is also false.
More than four hundred years ago, no less a personage than Shakespeare declared, Frailty, thy name is woman! In this one phrase, he postulated that all women are weak in character. May I say yet again, I have a wife who is anything but!
Depending upon the extent of your religious upbringing, you may have been taught that God helps those who help themselves. I might have believed that until one day, as a youngster, I witnessed two boys being caught for shoplifting. From then on, I have believed it more accurate to say, “God better help those caught helping themselves!”
How about he who hesitates is lost? Really? What if he has come to a fork in the road and has paused to determine the best route to follow? The hesitation might prevent him from becoming lost. Unless you prefer the advice from the American athlete/philosopher, Yogi Berra, who said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
And speaking of athletes, it’s long been a core belief in sports that practice makes perfect. I have never believed that. One could be practicing fundamentally-flawed techniques that will never allow the attainment of perfection. My golf game comes to mind. I might subscribe to a theory that perfect practice makes perfect, but the original generalization is false.
I’m not as sure about the one that holds you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. That may well be true, but you certainly could make a pretty good pigskin handbag.
Anyway, it must be apparent by now that I am no fan of generalizations. Much better, I think, to speak and write of particulars. As a final illustration of the dangers of over-generalizing, I offer this one from Rudolph Valentino: To generalize on women is dangerous. To specialize in them is infinitely worse. As I believe I have mentioned already, I have specialized in one woman for more than fifty years, and it has been infinitely better than I might ever have imagined.
Valentino’s generalization is false!
As are all generalizations…..including this one.