Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Right to Complain

“If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain” the saying goes—a saying which has become a fashionable rationale for voting. But this is a really silly saying if you think about it; as if having the right to complain was something to aspire to. In this age of talk radio shows, editorials and blogs (ouch!) it is easy to confuse our skills in the fine art of bitching for making a difference. Granted, I must confess that I am as good at complaining as any (which is a must for anyone who blogs much). Complaining is not necessarily a bad thing because without a serious critique of issues, we are not likely to come up with any new solutions. But it is easy to confuse our highly developed skills in the art of complaining with actually making a difference. Complaining gives us a sense of doing something without really having to get our hands dirty; and if we’ve voted then we can afford to be self-righteous about our complaining because we care more than the average non-voter.

Pardon me a minute while I complain about complainers.

As everyone knows, New Orleans dodged a serious bullet on Gustav and for this I am very, very grateful. This was no doubt the best evacuation on record that this state has seen, which is no small feat considering it was two million people who evacuated from South Louisiana. Unlike Katrina, the government was actually working together this time with every branch from local to state to federal government on the same page of the playbook. That alone would have been reason enough to celebrate, but when you factor in that New Orleans didn’t get hit you would think that this would be the time when folks are dancing in the streets and uncorking champagne. Yet already the complaining has begun.

There were many people who were evacuated out of New Orleans by the city to other places on trains, planes, and buses (all free of charge I might add). And as they returned on Saturday many were angrily complaining at how bad the experience was, at how long the drive to Memphis and other places took, at how hot and crowded it was. I know it wasn’t pleasant but I bet it sure beat the experience in the super-dome during Katrina. And then there’s the folks calling in to the local radio show verbally abusing the representative from Cox cable because they have not had their cable restored. They obviously have electricity and a radio. Can’t they simply be happy with that for a couple of more days?

As we enter this election let us vote, but let us not put so much weight on our vote that we do nothing with our lives save complaining. Let us work to make a difference in the handful of places and people with which we come in contact. Let our satisfaction be in helping things improve rather than bitching about how bad things are getting. I believe it was Gene Edwards who wrote, “The gift of fault finding is a cheap gift indeed….” Maybe you and I could try to aspire to a higher gifting than mere fault-finding and complaining.

1 comment:

curia_regis said...

I hadn't listened to any radio "gustav" coverage, since I was evacuated to Houston, but I did listen to people complaining this morning about the potential of not being reimbursed for their hotel stays...I don't even know what to say to that...ridiculous is the only word coming to mind, but I'm sure there are better ones I could use.

I didn't think people would have the nerve to complain about the "gustav", but I guess if you give people an open forum, you better watch out!