Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Convenience, Utility and Justice of Homogenous Groups, Regardless of Size

I would ask you, gentle reader, to compare the two lists below:

List A

List B
Charles Darwin
William Shakespeare
Elizabeth Bathory
Charles Dickens
Saint Peter
Adolf Hitler
Obi Wan Kenobi (Episode II onwards)
Joseph Stalin
Francis of Assisi
Pol Pot
Emperor Palpatine
William Booth
Napoleon Bonaparte
Myra Hindley

The conclusions that we can draw from the scientific and wholly representative study above should be so obvious as to be hardly worth expanding on, and I imagine that you will all be taking action accordingly.  However, that would make for a very short blog post, so I’m afraid that I must insult your intelligence and act as though the above were not self-evident. 

Obviously List A consists of paragons of humanity and over-achievers in their respective fields, be that writing, discovering evolution, philosophy, feeding the poor, fighting the Sith, blogging about writing and/or theology, forming the Holy Roman Empire etc. etc.

List B consists of murderers, dictators and Sith lords; all, it must be admitted, over-achievers in their fields, but one might wish that they’d tried less hard and been distracted more easily.

The common factor is, I hope, instantaneously obvious: beards.  The occupants of List A are all bearded, while the denizens of List B are all unbearded.  At most they might have a moustache.

Now, as we all know, correlation does not necessarily equal causation.  No reasonable person would actually suggest (despite the overwhelming weight of evidence in support of the hypothesis) that beards make one good, wise, witty, and modest.  Nonetheless, it does allow one to make some generalisations that can be assumed to hold true.  If you don’t have a beard, you’re probably a murderer.  You may well have attempted, at some point in the past, to conquer Europe.  You’ve most likely tried, probably unsuccessfully, to shoot lightning from your hands and/or crush the rebel alliance.  You’ve almost certainly had numerous people executed.  Unbearded people are generally and as a rule of thumb, evil.

If you, dear reader, are yourself unbearded, please do not take offence.  Of course the above is not true of all your kind; there are, or at least there must be, somewhere, unbearded people who are good, upright individuals, even if they cannot aspire to the heights of achievement catalogued by the inhabitants of List A.  You may even be one of them, or at least it is not totally beyond the realms of possibility.  I myself don’t have anything against unbearded people; many of my best friends don’t have beards, indeed I am married to an unbearded person.

I imagine that if one were to google ‘Unbearded People’, there would be a wide variety of websites, sound-bites and memes pointing out and mocking the many shortcomings of the breed.  This is unkind, but hardly unexpected.

In the same way that one can talk about bearded people, generalisations may be made about other groups.  Religious people for example.  Although there may be a little variety within the group, nonetheless what holds true for a Taliban suicide bomber can be assumed to also apply to the denizens of your local parish church.  What can be fairly said of a Young Earth creationist can equally be said of an Oxford theology professor.  More so, what can be said of a sixteenth century inquisitor can be said of the staff of the nearest Salvation Army soup kitchen or your local food bank.  Across time and space, ‘religious people’ are as homogenous and unchanging as ‘unbearded people’ (if the latter can really be called ‘people’ at all).  By and large, they (religious people that is, not unbearded people) are ignorant, anti-intellectual and potentially violent, extremely close-minded and hostile (often violently so) to change or any suggestion that their beliefs might not be accurate.

It is extremely useful to us that such generalisations hold true.  We live in a world of convenient clumps, clearly divided into distinct colours and types.  A world of nuance and change would be far too complicated for the human mind to encompass.  I mean, yes public discourse suffers somewhat, and the divisions between groups remain the same, if not growing ever wider, like continental plates slowly and inexorably drifting apart, but what can we do but shrug and wait for our continent to take us somewhere sunny?  Not only that, but the fact that all groups are monolithic and homogenous also allows far greater accountability than would otherwise be possible, a factor which we can all agree if of the utmost benefit to the world. 

After all, since unbearded people can be classed as a distinct and cohesive whole, the actions of any one unbearded person can be fairly laid at the door of any other unbearded person.  You, humble and bare-chinned reader, no matter how innocent you may assume yourself to be, bear the weight of Napoleon’s conquests, the blood of Elizabeth Bathory’s hot-tub stains your skin, the stench of Caligula’s orgies clings to your clothes.  We more fortunate people can ask you to get your house in order and discipline your more fractious elements, and we are able to justify our mistreatment of you because, after all, many innocent bearded people suffered the depredations of Napoleon’s armies, many were oppressed by Nero’s persecutions, a great many killed during Robespierre’s reign of terror.  It is only fair, right and just that you accept responsibility for the sins of your co-barefacers and at least offer a grovelling apology, even if you can’t necessarily offer physical reparations of any kind.

I hope that you now understand, tragic and whiskerless reader, why it is that you receive so much unkindness and abuse, and accept that although it is by no means your fault per se, it is nonetheless just, fair and reasonable, and that you should accept it graciously, humbly, maybe even gratefully.  Ultimately, you have no-one but yourself and those millions of other unbearded people throughout time and space, almost entirely identical to you in all essentials, to blame.

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