Categorical Statements

I don’t like categorical statements. I mean, aside from that one–the one about not liking categorical statements. I especially don’t like categorical statements about a class of people. I never have, and I don’t think I’m going to start now.

I like to base my opinion of people on the basis of things like how they act, how responsive they are to others. I decide if they’re good people and worthy of my trust based on what they do. Not how they look. Or what religion they follow. Whether they’re male or female. Black. White. Fat. Skinny. Ugly. You name it, I don’t believe in judging people on the basis of broad-based classifications.

I also don’t judge people on the basis of what they do for a living. There are some telemarketers out there who are good people, just trying to get by. There are some pediatricians who are probably awful. No one class of employment is all good or all bad.

And so while, yes, I will say that you should fire an agent who starts a 50/50 publishing venture, I don’t believe that all agents are bad. Far from it. To say otherwise is prejudice, plain and simple. Judging someone on the basis of their actions is fine–that’s not prejudice, it’s postjudice (to borrow from Carl Sagan). You are supposed to be able to make decisions on the basis of things you actually know about someone. I can figure out pretty quickly that a 50/50 venture sucks.

But you know what? A lot of agents haven’t proposed anything remotely like that. And so before we excoriate them as a class, let’s think about all of the agents who haven’t immediately rushed to exploit their clients. A lot of them are passionate about doing what is right for their clients. To say that they’re all a bad lot is just prejudice.

And think about this: before you respond to this post to explain to me why all agents really are bad, ask yourself this: Do you have proof that all agents really are bad, or do you just have evidence that some agents are bad? Because I don’t believe it is right, fair, or moral to judge all members of a class on the basis of evidence about some of them.

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