17. Aug, 2016

Some and All.

The late Terry Pratchett wrote that “Evil, real evil, begins when people treat others as things.” I would argue that this is most easily accomplished by ignorantly believing the fallacy that “all x’s are y” when SOME x’s are y.”

For example, “I know a person with red hair who has a vicious temper, therefore ALL people with red hair must have vicious tempers!”

“The Germans are an arrogant race!” Thus spoke an elderly lady implying that ALL Germans are arrogant. Had she said SOME Germans in the same way that SOME British/ French/ Russians/ Chinese/Americans etc., are also arrogant, she would have been factually correct. In the event she showed nothing more than the ignorance that begets such statements
1. There is only one race on this planet - the Human Race
2. There is no research evidence to suggest that Germans are any more or any less arrogant than any other people.
3. Should there be a house slap bang on the Belgian/German border, does the owner’s arrogance decrease in the Belgian kitchen at the back and increase in the German living room at the front?
4. Did she mean each and every German man, woman and child of 80 million nationals were so afflicted?
There was no attempt to provide an argument, just a statement totally lacking in supporting evidence… from the same part of La-La Land as “Elvis is alive and well and living on Mars, (the planet not the choc bar).

This is of course a case of crude, ill- considered national stereotyping. (Possibly from watching too many old Second World War films?) How could one word possibly say what is true of 80 million people? Is there, for example one word that would sum up us British? No? Then why is it not also true of Germans and members of every other nation on earth?

This ignorant confusion between all and some has led to terrible past and present persecutions of “them” whom we perceive to be different from “us.” Consider the piece of crude propaganda illustrated above, that I found posted on my Face Book page…”Am I Islamophobic?”

It does at least offer some sort of an argument…
Premise A… The inference that terrible crimes against people have been committed by ALL Muslims.
Premise B… the same threat is being brought to the UK,
Conclusion… Therefore the writer does not want the same thing to happen here, so is anti Islamic.

His argument is invalid because Premise A is invalid. He lists six terrible things that have been committed, it infers, by ALL Muslims when in fact they have been committed by SOME and then by only a miniscule percentage of the world’s 1.6 billion followers. He does not differentiate between the extreme Jihardists of I.S. and those who call themselves Muslim but no more follow their faith than those baptised CofE who only enter a church in the rest of their lives for “hatchings, matchings and despatching.” Needless to say, no names, dates, times or places are given.

Once again the old fallacy of “Most and All” is being used to whip up prejudice against a minority in our society, different through their creed, skin colour, sexuality, gender and culture but ideal for blaming as the cause of all our shortcomings.

This smacks of exactly the same reaction to Jews in the Middle Ages; Dutch, Flemish and French protestant refugees and to catholics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the Irish in the eighteenth, French émigrés during the Napoleonic Wars, European Jews in the nineteenth and black or brown people throughout the twentieth; LGBT folk throughout time.

Should such views be confronted? Insofar that we are all either victims, perpetrators or bystanders, then yes! However, there are problems. These views have always been and are invariably expressed by those who do not know how to think critically i.e. educated to discount personal opinion, prejudice and anecdote in favour of evidence. The word, “probably” is not part of their vocabulary, their cast-iron certainty, frightening. On the other hand, I can hardly claim that this is true of all, only some (!), but we might just connect with a minority even among them.

Who knows, perhaps even the author of “Am I Islamophobic” might be persuaded to think for more than “a brief moment,” begin to rationalise his or her own personal prejudices and cast off the ignorance of certainty.