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If you have nothing to complain about, what good are you to humanity?

If you have nothing to complain about, what good are you to humanity?

You get days, and you get ‘other’ days. Personally my idea of calling it a day is when the work is done and I can clock off without feeling that something is unfinished. If you want me to concede that the day was good, throw in time off, a couple of books smelling of fresh ink, the chance to sleep the afternoon away and a pizza delivery in the evening.

My tastes and ambitions are far less complicated, hormonal and inebriated now that I have been able to say goodbye to being a ‘kid’. Unfortunately I still get ‘other’ days. I’m sure you also know these ‘other’ days as well. On ‘other’ days you discover the reason for your colleagues’ stress-free smiles is due to the fact that they haven’t kept up with the tasks that you need done to proceed with your part of the job. Devices that used to hum just above the subliminal border of hearing start buzzing like chainsaws. Bank managers finally start paying attention to you or, worse yet, you discover that they really haven’t been paying attention to you at all.

I don’t mind ‘other’ days. Sometimes ‘it’ happens and you just happen to be the one step into it and track it all over the expensive new shag carpet that can’t be shampooed. It’s probably got something to do with the ‘karmic balance’ thing, and maybe you should have given that beggar a couple of dollars and a smile instead of telling him to get a job. Or perhaps it’s just life.

The problem arises when I have ‘other’ weeks, ‘other months’, or even ‘years to remember’ in which everything seems to mount up with a vengeance.

The washing machine goes on strike, but you can’t see to that because first you need to deal with the tiles that fell off the bathroom wall. Theoretically you could fix the tiles, but you have traumatic memories of grouting yourself to the wall. You might call a handyman, but you are overdrawn and your mobile phone with the handyman’s number was stolen. That doesn’t matter though as he doesn’t bother to answer calls anyway. So because the tiles fell off the bathroom wall, you end up hoping that nobody will notice you are wearing yesterday’s socks. You get the picture…

I’m not a great fan of the idea of Prozac. I have heard enough stories about postal workers with grievances, guns and ill-advised prescriptions. When things keep going wrong I like to grumble and, on very rare occasions, blow my stack. It doesn’t change the facts but it relieves the pressure.

Knowing the therapeutic value of complaining, I believe that people who wander around telling everyone they ‘can’t complain’ are counterproductive to humanity’s mental health, if there is such a thing.

People who ‘can’t complain’ should be sent to the nearest totalitarian dictatorship; the kind where the complaints department is conveniently located just across the road from the pockmarked wall and the bloodstained posts. At least they would have a sound reason not to complain.

Imagine a world in which nobody complained! If not for Ralph Nader’s complaints about automotive safety in the Sixties we’d still be wrapping ourselves around tree trunks, not suffering a new set of injuries from airbags. If not for America’s complaints about the British in the 18th century, we would never have known Jerry Springer. And if not for some ancestor’s complaint about the draft through the leaves, we would still believe that trees are real-estate.

There is definitely something to be said for complaints, but all of a sudden I am not sure whether it is good or bad. At least I can say that we need to blow off steam from time to time.

When next you meet someone who ‘can’t complain’, tell them to try harder, perhaps beginning with something easy like the weather. If that doesn’t work, talk to them about their jobs or tell them that the number of the consumer lobby can be found in the directory. Perhaps you could even ask them for the numbers of their therapists.

They may eventually appreciate your efforts to relieve their bottled-up stress, and you will be doing the human race a favour.


 

About The Author

Pierre Maré

Pierre Maré is a multi-awarded Namibian advertising strategist and copy writer. From 2004 to 2016 he wrote a weekly tongue-in-cheek column for the paper Economist, eventually amassing an impressive 590 articles over the almost 12-year period. This series of Offbeat is a digital rerun of his pieces that received the highest reader acclaim. - Ed.