Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
THE NEW NATIONAL PASTIME: COMPLAINING
I have a complaint. This does not exactly make me unique, since whining has leaped ahead of baseball as America’s national pastime. Everybody complains nowadays. Some folks have turned it into lucrative careers. Most comedians and many musicians build their whole acts around complaining. Special interest groups, labor unions, and the Ralph Naders of the world do nothing but cry and moan—and reap oodles of fame and fortune in the process. Talk show hosts, political pundits, and the news media (know collectively as the “chattering class”) are always outraged about something, and don’t hesitate to use 5,000 words to describe an issue which can be covered thoroughly in 300 words.
By far the most talented complainers in the world are politicians and trial lawyers. These folks are brilliant. They have elevated outrage and indignation to an art form, using theatrical bluster to force millions of average citizens (in other words, taxpayers and insurance premium payers) to hand over boatloads of cash to a small number of tragically victimized citizens (in other words, big-buck campaign donors and people who screwed up their lives and now want to blame someone else).
Anyone who can convince a jury to award zillions of dollars to a person who made the conscious choice to smoke three packs a day is a champ in my book. (I’m waiting for them to file a product liability lawsuit against God for creating ice, the cause of so many slips, falls, and fender benders. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you must send a strong message, so that other deities will think twice before producing and marketing such an inherently dangerous product.”)
As good as trial lawyers are, the politicians are the kings of complaining. Anyone who can say with a straight face that a 7-percent increase in spending is a “ruthless, draconian cut” gets my vote every time.
So, getting back to my complaint. I’m not sure exactly how to phrase this, but my complaint is that everybody complains too much. Despite the awe inspiring skill of the professional complainers, too many amateurs think nothing of giving it a try. And if you think there’s nothing wrong with amateurs attempting to perform highly skilled tasks, I have two words for you: Karaoke Night.
The professional complainers ply their craft for a very specific reason: it fills their pockets with gazillions of dollars. On the other hand, amateur complainers receive nothing for their efforts, unless you consider causing people to turn and run away from you an achievement.
I don’t think complaint-prone folks realize how silly they appear, nor how annoying they truly are. I was recently in the presence of a wealthy gentleman who spends more money each month maintaining his fleet of luxury automobiles than I spend in a year of mortgage payments. (I believe he has a team of Stuttgart-born mechanics living in the servants quarters.)
When the topic turned to the recent 20-cent per gallon rise in gasoline prices, this man went ballistic, complaining for a good hour about greedy oil companies (of which he owns about four) and greedy politicians (of which he owns about 12).
For the first 99.9 percent of human history, the most pressing issue a person faced was whether he had enough food to survive the day. The second most pressing issue a person faced was whether a wild beast, thinking similar thoughts, would eat him for lunch. In my book, these are legitimate complaints.
Nowadays, people complain about ridiculous and insignificant issues. I think they’re under the impression that incessant whining tells the world they have high standards, a discriminating eye, and a commitment to excellence. In reality, their nonstop complaining tells the world they are, using the technical medical term, flaming jerks. (Or use your own favorite “flaming” expression.)
Maybe it’s time for people to cut back on complaining. Instead of finding fault with every little thing, maybe we should spend a little more time being thankful for, and satisfied with, what we already have. (Omigod! What am I saying? That’s so un-American. That would ruin the economy!)
Well, maybe we should at least lighten up and relax a little more. And I swear, if people don’t begin to lighten up, I’m going to file a formal complaint.
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