Friday, 25 January 2013

No point in complaining...

Due to unusual circumstances, I don't have the brain for a Mindset Cafe this week, so here's a column for you.

According to a rather old, and now dull, cliché, that which does not kill you makes you stronger. This is hogwash. If you don’t believe me, take a tour of your local intensive care unit. Any of the patients in a condition to speak will bear me out. That which does not kill you, gives you a good reason to complain.

If you will pardon yet another worn cliché, we live in interesting times. Everyone has a complaint, and those who don’t are either born stupid, are rich enough to get away with stupidity or just aren’t trying hard enough. Complaints are the universal fuel that drives us, as individuals and a species, onwards towards whatever destiny awaits. Think about it this way…

At the dawn of humanity’s sentience, Caveman Og complains there is not enough to eat. His consort or mate, having heard this a hundred times turns from poking the fire and grunts words to the effect that perhaps Og might have less to complain about if he went out and slaughtered a mammoth for once.

In a modern metropolis, Yuppie Joe complains that payments on his luxury German sedan prevent him from eating. His managing director stops prodding an errant accountant, turns to him and grunts words to the effect that perhaps, if Yuppie Joe put in a few more hours overtime like the rest of the Exco, his performance bonus might alleviate the hunger.

With the possible exception of weather, death and taxes, a kick in the butt will inevitably follow after a variable number of repetitions of the same complaint to any specific person. Alleviation of the complaint will then depend on the ability of the person clutching his or her butt to go out and solve the problem.

The problem with this truism is firstly it requires action and effort, and secondly the expenditure of energy may lead to success, but possibly also failure. And what if the complaint is so minor that effort is a waste of energy in the first place? And no matter how large or small the complaint, it doesn’t even start going away until you start talking about it.

However if you have a complaint and you don’t want to take action, there is one approach that may avoid the inherent dangers: blame it on a conspiracy. For instance, if you are too bone idle or not smart enough for promotion, blame it on a secret cabal in your workplace who are afraid of allowing you to get ahead in case you show them how things should really be done. If your bank manager refuses to extend your credit beyond three times the value of your assets, blame it on a shadowy group of evil financial masterminds who sacrifice innocent puppies on every Friday when the moon is full.

In the marvelous cinematic adaptation of Mario Vargas Llosa’s ‘Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter’, Peter Falk’s character Pedro the Scriptwriter blames the ills of the entire world on distant and sinister Albanians. His reasoning is that somebody has to be blamed and that the Albanians are too far away to take offense.

The fun aspects of a conspiracy theory are that you can’t do anything about a conspiracy, nobody can disprove your theory and you can complain about the problem as much as you please, provided it isn’t so far fetched that you end up in a padded room. Discovering a small group of earnest, committed followers and a bunch of interesting websites about your theory is a possible bonus.

If you choose this route there are dangers. You may find you start believing the conspiracy, in which case a visit to your shrink may not be such a bad idea. Also note that if you start stockpiling weapons and canned goods, whatever passes for government may well be inclined to begin conspiring against you in reality, so think carefully before buying a second assault rifle and extra rounds. However bear in mind that just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean you don’t have enemies.

In reality, everyone has problems that may or may not be caused by others, but at the end of the day, you will actually only have one person to blame for the problem’s persistence, and that is yourself.

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