Recently someone asked me, “What do you think of young people?” I asked, “Which one?” “In general,” he said. I said, “I think they are like they always have been. Each one is different and each one has gifts and challenges.”
One of the things that troubles me is how many of us are tempted to think “in general.” We read about people in the news or hear about people via gossip and we develop opinions about people “in general.” We make broad and sweeping statements about them. “Old people are always. . . . “ “Men always think . . . “ “English people are . . . .”
The truth is, no one particular person is “in general.” Everyone I know is “in particular.” Each person I know is unique and is unlike any other person. My experience with people is that we make some important mistakes in our life when we think about people “in general.” Not all “boomers” are alike. Not all “teen-agers” are alike. What appeals to one doesn’t necessarily appeal to all.
Now, of course, people do studies and discover that a majority of people in a particular category may have a common taste in music or have a certain disposition toward religion. But the fact is, each one of those majority are also inclined toward different nuisances in their response. And each is also capable of changing in how she/he thinks. Each has a different capacity to respond differently in unique situations. Each has a different history and a different context in which to consider their feelings and responses.
So, I want to be careful when I respond to questions like, “What do you think about young people.” I don’t want to respond i”n general.” To do so disrespects the unique and diverse creation of individual and particular differences. The world is much more interesting and people are much more mysterious if we see them as “in particular.”