On the value of whining.
The complainer is always wrong. I saw a bumper sticker that said something about ending whining the other day, and it’s been rolling around in my head ever since. There seems to be this pervasive attitude that pointing out flaws in the way we do things, not as individuals but as a culture, or even in the government that is intended to represent our interests, is just whining.
I’ve often seen that expressed as “Sure, X isn’t perfect, but…”, and it’s that “but” that gets me. It’s rarely if ever “Sure, things aren’t perfect, but if we think about it and work together we can probably improve the situation”, it’s generally more like “Sure, things aren’t perfect, but they’re not too bad and others have it worse, so stop whining”.
I always hear that second one as “Sure, things aren’t perfect, but I’m personally pretty comfortable and I’m not willing to put any work into improving things for others, so stop mentioning them because my conscience bothers me when you do.” Of course from a practical perspective, what’s being said is “Sure, things aren’t perfect, and I’m not going to help anyone try to make them so.”
I can understand feeling uncomfortable when someone points out an imperfection in the way your nation or religion or whatever social group does things, we all like to pretend we’re perfect, but to dismiss it as “just whining” smacks of thoughtless dogma. Worse, when valid criticism is coming from within the group, to denounce the critic as “disloyal” or some such shows profound weakness of character, as you’re not only attacking one of your own who’s (presumably, for this example at least) acting in good faith, but you’re passing up a chance to improve things. If you can’t face the flaws you can’t fix them, and if you love your group so much, you should be willing to make it better.
I should point out that I’m not talking about the sort of jabbering apes that just want to throw shit all over everything, like an internet troll who will not only exaggerate problems, but also lie and misrepresent in order to get a rise. I’m also willing to accept that at some point you have to assume that you have a good handle on the problem, and it’s time to start looking for solutions.
In fact that’s probably a good practical definition of “just whining” right there, when you’re no longer pointing out problems, but merely repeating that they exist while contributing nothing to a solution. That puts me in a strange position, because many of my posts on this blog straddle the line between “raising awareness” and “complaining without really helping”. But since the real purpose of this blog is to practice my writing, I’m not too put out by that.