Have we become more stressed or more Zen-like?
Sure, we all tend to complain about ourselves–our day, our health, our work. That’s a real catharsis when we’re able to destress and release our frustrations. Life’s not fair, and that often is expressed with a justified complaint.
When it comes to inconveniences or less than ideal service, however, most people are preferring to go with the flow and let it go. Why don’t we complain? Have we become more compassionate towards those workers in front of us, seeing them as co-habitants of stressful living? Cutting them slack is like an invisible nod of I feel the strain of your job.
An aversion to confrontation can also be a reason why we don’t complain. People would rather adjust to a defect or go without their request rather than object and risk an altercation. Why don’t we complain? It may be related to how stressed we are and a matter of picking our battles.
In 1961, William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote an essay that describes his amusing struggle to assert himself, called “Why Don’t We Complain?” It originally appeared in Esquire in 1960. He wrote:
Every New Year’s Eve I resolve to do something about the Milquetoast in me and vow to speak up, calmly, for my rights and for the betterment of our society, on every appropriate occasion… When our voices are finally mute, when we have finally suppressed the natural instinct to complain, whether vexation is trivial or grave, we shall have become automatons, incapable of feeling. (Read his entire essay here.)
One of Buckley’s reasons, 55 years ago, for why Americans didn’t complain was due to a reluctance to assert ourselves because of an increased sense of helplessness in an age of technology and centralized political power.
I can see how that conclusion may no longer be why we don’t complain. There may be people who don’t verbalize what they really think because they don’t want to make a fuss and be thought as difficult. The problem with that plan is that the people who really need to be heard, won’t be. If they don’t share what they think, how will they be heard?
As American’s, we must assert ourselves for the cause of equality and the demonstration of human kindness. Any abatement from this basic human right deserves complaint. Otherwise, we fail as a society.
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