Opinion

How Complaints Can Catalyze Change

By CHRIS CHAE
Staff Writer

The complainer. You all know who I’m talking about. If you make a passing comment on how you struggled with that test, the complainer will make it his or her personal goal to emphasize how much more they struggled.

These comments are common at a stressful school like University High School. In every corner you’ll hear somebody complaining about last night’s physics homework, or how hard the biology test was, or everyone’s favorite: how much sleep they got. 

For comedic purposes, I find self-deprecating comments somewhat funny. But if people continue to exaggerate their suffering, always attempting to one-up you on how bad their life is, it becomes annoying. Really annoying. 

There’s a clear difference between useless complaining and useful complaining. Complaining, when articulated correctly and used for the right purpose, creates change and solves problems.

For example, the American Revolution was partially instigated by the complaints of the colonists. In the Declaration of Independence, you will find a list of the grievances (fancy word for complaints) America had towards Britain, most notably, “for imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” and, “for depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.”

However, what made these complaints useful was how they prompted action within the colonists. The colonies banded together and rebelled against Britain, putting their words into actions. When they won the war, their complaints acted as the basis of a new form of government, and the United States of America was established. 

There are multiple types of complaints: useless whining, rants, arguments, and protests. Whining, more often than not, is useless. Others, like rants, arguments, and protests, have the potential for positive change. Let’s dive into their uses.

Useless Whining

These rarely help anybody.

Exaggerated beyond reason and blurted out without thought, useless whining is just an attempt at pity and attention. For example, if you are going to complain about not getting enough sleep at night and wonder why that is the case (without doing anything to solve it), people will slowly begin to ignore your complaints.

Boring and unoriginal, the best this will lead to is a shallow conversation, and at worst, an argument of who suffers more. Instead of whining about your problems, there are plenty of more useful conversations to be had. 

The Rant

In this type of complaint, people love to share secrets and dump emotions, which popular culture has dubbed “spilling the tea.”

It is seen in long paragraphs in iMessage, multitudes of short angry texts, or even 100+ second snapchats. Often, people rant about something that bothers them, the emotion of recent events fueling their words. This is one way to unload emotional baggage and share how you feel. However, people often rant to other people, rather than to those with whom they are in conflict.

Due to the public nature of many high-schoolers, this can cause gossip to spread without solving the problem. Ranting can be helpful for sharing emotions, but unless you confront and solve the problem afterwards, it can turn friends against each other, create baseless rumors, and hurt others in the process. 

For example, after a fight with her significant other, my friend ranted to me about her relationship problems. She listed off all his negative qualities and ridiculed him. While the emotional unloading may have calmed her from her fevered state, I reminded her that she would have to confront him and solve the problem at hand instead of just talking about it.

The ideal way to rant is to gain feedback and to ground oneself in reality. Ranting without acting spreads rumors and negativity. 

The Argument

I love arguing. I think it’s very interesting how different people can develop different perspectives of the same issue.

But it is worth noting that the basis of an argument is a complaint: there is a problem, and people argue to determine which solution is the best. This type of complaint is the most common, and can be seen in a wide variety of debates, ranging from which sauce is better on chicken to political discussions.

Logical reasoning is the main criteria in forming a strong argument, making arguments very useful in judging value between two opposing sides. By using common sense and deduction, one can utilize multiple perspectives to formulate the best plan of action.

However, when arguments are based solely on emotion, they often lead nowhere. People become too stubborn to see another side and shut off their minds to an open discussion. While arguments are a great way to use reasoning to solve problems, we must always remember to keep an open mind and form our opinions sensibly.

Political debates can feature both sides complaining about issues that matter to them. Politicians complain and develop different stances on a wide range of issues. During debates, complaints are voiced by candidates who argue over solutions to complex problems. The complaints of politicians and voters alike can influence the political agenda and turn into action at a higher level of government. 

The Protest

Protesting is very common, especially in the political sphere.

According to the Crown Counting Consortium, 13,000 protests occurred between January 2017 and March 2018. People protest on the local, state, and national level regarding key issues that interest groups believe the government should be handling differently. Protests can stem from smaller actions such as petitions or grow into bigger actions such as boycotts.

While many protests and marches are non-violent, there have been some instances in which violence occurred and police force was used. Protests can be shut down, or acknowledged, but most often change in policy is made through compromise. Protests work when people complain sensibly and use just means to rally people behind them, causing the larger government or organization to respond.

One example of protests catalyzing change was the Birmingham Civil Rights protests. After active protesting led to police brutality and Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested, divided communities were brought together to rally for equal treatment regardless of race. 

To offer a more recent example: when Hong Kong disagreed with the policies of Mainland China, they complained, to a certain extent. Mainland China sought to enforce a bill that allowed the forcing of citizens in Hong Kong to take trial in Mainland China under communist rule.

This is controversial because Hong Kong is part of China in a “one country, two system” policy. While Hong Kong is a part of China for now, they are slowly distancing themselves as a separate entity, as their autonomy is already lawfully guaranteed for 2047. 

To fight against the extradition bill, the people of Hong Kong united and started to protest. Their complaints were voiced by more than a million citizens, putting pressure on the Chinese government. These complaints led to protests, protests led to action, and action created results. Mainland China repealed the extradition bill in September after many protests.

Complaints work when they catalyze action. They can be useful and effective when employed properly. Complaints shouldn’t be thrown around carelessly, as they reflect upon who you are as a person and what you value. There are so many more interesting and positive ways we can use our words, time, and energy, than complain.

I hope my complaints influence yours’.

Categories: Opinion

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