Saturday 9 March 2013
The indomitable L.C. Skupien of Retirement Daze recently announced that she had been inspired by another blogger to try and refrain from complaining for a whole month; an admirable endeavour. If anyone were entitled to the odd moan, it would be L.C. She is patience and courage personified.
I loathe people who are habitually dissatisfied and feel entitled to share their dreary monologues with me and if I see someone coming whose conversation is bound to turn into a long moan I cross the road to avoid them. And if I can’t avoid them I plead lack of time to get away from them. But what of those of us who indulge in occasional bouts of complaining? What about me? My first reaction to L.C.'s post was to say :
"Really, no more complaining?
O dear, I wonder if I could do that.
I love raving and ranting and complaining. It lets off steam and afterwards I can get back to admiring the sunny side of life.
If I didn’t complain about politicians, greedy people, unkindness, bigots, the weather, falling over the dog, I’d have a lot of spare time.”
Is this a matter of “my complaints are justified”, while "yours are misguided” and "his are plainly ridiculous and a great bore”? Is complaining another instance of ‘in the eye of the beholder’?
A long time ago, in another place and life, I was a member of a women’s group. We ostensibly met to keep our brains ticking over while being tied to small children and kitchen sinks but that didn’t stop some of us from spending a lot of time at each meeting complaining about husbands. Not me, I was too embarrassed about my then spouse to hint at his manifold shortcomings in public. But others let their feelings out: inappropriate sex, no sex, too much sex; always out, probably with a floozy; overly finicky and a control freak; mean with money, but spending plenty away from the family. These regular airings of grievances may have been boring, but the women went home and, for a while, the load had lightened. The letting-off-steam kind of complaining.
Then there’s the righteous-anger-kind of complaining. Politicians or anyone in authority; bankers; the idle and sex-mad young; immigrant benefit scroungers; the filthy rich/undeserving poor; unmarried mothers after a council flat; deviant same-sex-couples who want to get married/ have children; that chap in his fancy car who just cut me up; the woman at the charity do who never ever stays behind to do the dishes; the teenagers who hang around on street corners doing God-knows-what, drugs I shouldn’t wonder, I should like to get hold of their parents; and on and on, take your pick and complain to your heart’s content.
What about going on protest sit-ins or marches? Is protesting about another road cutting through a water meadow, the Iraq war, banker’s bonuses, the establishment of a gambling/red light district in a city, littering the countryside with wind farms, the destruction of the rain forest, the same as complaining?
I have a lot of experience of the complaining-in-advance method. I was absolutely certain that two meetings last week would prove unbearably dull and irritating. “Why would I want to go to a German conversation group. Nobody there is the least bit fluent and they all look to me to find their words for them.” The other meeting was the writers’ group. “They don’t really want to work at it and that silly little man who annoys me with his desperately dull and lifeless readings will bang on about having to give his creativity free rein instead of being shackled to a theme or challenge.” This kind of complaining-in-advance is also known as complaining-from-a-superior-position. In the event both meetings proved constructive. The German group read - haltingly, but enthusiastically - a piece by an author previously unknown to me and the writers’ group showed willing to try setting themes, while the little man kept quiet - without me having threatened to do him harm!
Maybe there are two sides to this complaining business, as with every blessed thing on this earth. Voicing dissatisfaction with the status quo - also known as nagging in the case of a frustrated housewife, is not necessarily to be deplored, whereas watching injustice and destruction and doing nothing definitely is. Rolling over and letting bad things happen without getting passionately involved is a cop out, an excuse designed to shirk responsibility.
Personally, I am in favour of moaning a little less and doing a bit more of the protesting, and not just for lent.