Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The ills of generalising

We generalise and we generalise every day. We make broad statements about other people based on specific cases. We generalise purposely, unintentionally, consciously, sub-consciously, and even unconsciously; we generalise without thinking twice because it has become our habit to generalise - an unhealthy habit nonetheless. 
Generalisation is not a first-world or a developing-world problem; it is a global problem. People of all sorts of backgrounds have a tendency to 'paint with a broad brush' - white, black, brown, men, women, rich, poor, young, old, American, European, Asian, educated, uneducated, religious, and irreligious alike. We make broad statements about a group based on the actions of a few members of that group. It slips from our minds that exceptions also exist.    
We take one or two of our bitter experiences to judge all the people of a particular gender, race, religion, country, culture, or profession. But is that fair? 
The world leaders make blanket statements every day, and so do the people they represent. No matter how much we say we do not like our silver-tongued politicians, the truth is, we often do the very things that people we do not approve of do. Ironic!
When we read or hear about government officers who have gotten wealthy by accepting bribes, in our minds, we nurture an impression that most civil servants are perhaps venal. Although I think letting our brains cultivate ideas supported by inadequate evidence is unhealthy; it shuts human minds to other explanations and possibilities.  
We generalise, because when we do so, it makes our statements sound weighty, powerful, and far-reaching to our audiences. It also helps us reach quick conclusions to problems and situations. 
When people say: pretty girls are dumb; homemakers are lazy; men are messy; police officers are corrupt; government officers are dishonest; or Muslims are endorsers of terrorism - can they corroborate their statements with enough examples? More than likely, they cannot. Because exceptions abound. 
Therefore, when we paint with a broad brush all the people with a particular characteristic, we propagate gender, age, professional, racial, and religious stereotypes. We also feed into the existing prejudices. But living in a heterogeneous society, we cannot afford such generalising of people. Can we?
We should not judge a book by its cover, but how many of us lend an ear to such wise men's sayings? We do not just judge a book by its cover; we judge it by standing ten feet away in a place from where the book is hardly visible. And we do it because it is easier than actually holding the book and reading it in its entirety. 
Because we are afraid of our long-held beliefs being challenged, we have developed a dangerous habit of just scratching the surface of a problem and then reaching a conclusion from whatever little becomes visible to the naked eye. 
Generalised statements hurt and alienate people. If we wish for a peaceful world where different groups of people can coexist, one of the first things that we perhaps should do is to stop generalising and keep an open mind to notice the numerosity of 'exceptions'.  
By Wara Karim

Packing Light

I was a heavy packer once. If it were possible to take my entire house to a vacation, I would have probably considered that too! I would all the time take more clothes and toiletries than necessary, and when I returned from a vacation, I would always discover that I did not wear most of the clothes that I had carried. 
I realised time and again there was no need to take, say, eight tops and tees for two days – maybe four would have been just enough. I understood over time that I was not doing anything wise, and that I should do something to bring an end to this habit of lugging my entire world with me everywhere I go.  
It is always best to make a list of things you need to take with you - the list helps tremendously. On my last three out-of state trips, I managed to carry all my things in one carry-on luggage. I learned through experience that a lot of times it is all about how you place your clothes in your bag. For example, it is better to roll your garments than to fold them. If you roll them right, they will take up much less space than you had ever imagined. 
Your pants and skirts take up more space than your tops. A light traveller would pack one pair of pants for every three or so tops, because a wise person wears one pair of bottoms multiple times. After all, how many people really wash a pair of denim after every wear?
The clothes might get some creases from being in a small bag for a long time, but it is not a problem if you stay in a hotel, where an iron is often available in the room's closet. If you are staying at a friend or relative's place, you do not even need to worry about creases either, because every house has an iron! 
It is also a good idea to leave your expensive and delicate clothing behind if you want to pack light, as you might ruin them in your effort to fit a lot of things in a small bag. Bulky garments are a NO, too!
If you are travelling to a place or country where laundry service is easily available, use it. In that way, you can repeat your clothes. Hotels also offer laundry service. 
Do not take those large bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, etc. to your vacation. Buy travel-size containers to take your personal care products, and if you do not mind using the products supplied by the hotels, then you do not have to carry these items at all. 
Consider taking travel-size shaving foam and toothpaste. A lot of light travellers also buy personal care products from the city/country they are visiting to avoid the hassle of carrying these items with them. 
Do not carry your entire make-up and jewellery collection to the beach or the mountains. Ask yourself before putting one more lip colour or pair of earrings in your bag, “Do I need it?” 
If you ask yourself this question every time you place an item in your bag, you will see that in most instances, your reply to your own question will be a no. 
Do not take several pairs of shoes. A traveller should not carry more than two pairs of shoes. Carry a pair of flip-flops for comfort, depending upon the weather of your place of visit, of course. A pair of dress shoes, if you have plans to dine at a fine restaurant, but do not take shoes that are heavy or have high heels.  
For international travel, learning to pack light is a necessity as you now can carry much less weight that you could at one time. Your carry-on bag should be light and the things in it organised - I had seen people in airports with carry - on bags that were so huge and unwieldy that the airliners counted them as checked luggage!
If you pack light, you will also see that passing through an airport's security checkpoint becomes faster, even if the officials decide to open your bags for a thorough checking. A light bag also means that you will walk faster, and face little difficulty handling it during your journey. Many people complain of strained muscles and lower back pain after lifting heavy baggage!
So, consider packing light for your next trip - you might be surprised to learn that living with fewer things is actually not that difficult.
By Wara Karim