I have also seen this attributed to Mae West, if anyone cares. If I had said or written it, I would have bent it to fit my own concerns, like this:
- “Great minds attack false ideas;
Disinterested minds attack events;
Tiny minds attack people.”
As one whose sin against my own species during written and oral discussions makes my guilt equal to anyone’s, I have firsthand awareness of how counterproductive personal attacks can be. They can lead to loss of mutually beneficial friendships and forestall development of budding friendships of which we may not yet be aware. My dad often said, “It takes two to tangle”, a twist on a quip involving a dance routine. A comment from either side, made about the other during a battle of words, by its nature invites a response in kind. When that occurs, ideas get abandoned and the other person becomes a target for both sides.
Identified as ad hominems, personal attacks appear in many forms, making them perhaps the most ubiquitous form of logical fallacy. Any statement about the other person made by either side presents as some form of ad hominem, including friendly remarks, as they are off-topic.
In our modern cultures, religious tribalism, the tendency of monotheistic religions to denounce outsiders who do not share their exact beliefs as others (unbelievers, etc) must be cited as the ongoing source for this seemingly universal tendency. Most modern citizens get at least partial indoctrination from one or more monotheistic cults, even if second hand from neighbors. World-wide, intolerance is the norm as a result.
The Old Testament is stuffed with God’s (by many names) commands to go hither and yon to do dirty deeds to sacrilegious neighboring tribes (who were probably ordered by their gods to do the same). I have read quotes purported to be from The Koran about dealing harshly with unbelievers. The New Testament (especially after Paul gets involved) continues the Jewish tradition against outsiders with one slight modification: now, rather than kill them, Christians get instructed to convert them.
The result is the same, the fostering of us versus them mentalities that seep into the inhabitants’ minds throughout every culture they dominate. Us Versus Them perpetuates the development of tiny minds that concern themselves with unevidenced attacking of people for their beliefs, rather than attacking the actual beliefs. Tiny minds in high places can reach around the world to play Us Versus Them with full support of all the tiny minds who share their form of indoctrination. The worlds we inhabit will stay immersed in warfare for so long as this condition persists.