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“You shouldn’t generalize and everybody in the world knows that”

Years ago, my uncle told me, “I told you a million times not to exaggerate.” It was, of course, a joke based in the obvious self-contradiction of the thought expressed in that statement. But it is not a joke the increasing number of people using similar expressions and fully unaware of the self-contradicting aspect of what they are saying.

For example, somebody recently told me “You should not generalize”, and then she immediately added, “And everybody in the world knows that.” Of course, “Everybody knows that” is a generalization, that is, precisely what this person said we should avoid. However, it was clear this person was unaware of that contradiction. O perhaps it was unimportant to her.

The same person told me that, based on what she experienced at her workplace, she knew that the problem we were talking about was not happening in any other workplace. Let me see if I understand: she told me not to generalize and then she takes her experience in one place and generalizes it to all other similar places to draw her own conclusions.

Regardless of the validity of those conclusions, the absence of awareness of the contradiction embedded in the argument made me think that “not thinking” is now the model for all dialogues (or, perhaps even better, alternated monologues.)

Then, another person sent me a message telling something I already know, and I fully agree with: a picture is worth a thousand words. And to make his point, this person wrote almost one thousand words in his message, adding no image (of course.)

Let me see: a picture is worth a thousand words (very true.) And, for me to understanding it, this person sends me one thousand words and no image. I was tempted to ask for an explanation, but I was afraid I could receive another long message.

Again, the contradiction was so evident I wanted to know why it was not immediately perceived as such and why contradictions seems to be irrelevant to thinking and to communication.

And don’t get me started about the person who sent me a message telling me that “God loves the whole world” and his very next message was asking “God” to “annihilate with fire” those who disagree with the expression of faith this person embraces. The “whole world” was just “a world without them.”

To be very clear, I am not talking here about ambiguities (there are too many of them) or about people changing their minds and one day saying one thing and the next day saying something else (that’s very frequent and too common). I am talking about those who contradict themselves in one and the same thought and they not even know it.

So, what’s the problem? Why should we care about somebody expressing self-contradicting thoughts and not being aware of them? First, because “not thinking” is not a joke, because decisions and actions are based on those contradictions. And second, because “not thinking” is way of not knowing ourselves.

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