Thursday, March 10, 2005

Whining About Whining

The biggest gripe I have about whining is the fact that, well, aside from letting off steam, it serves no purpose. In fact, it can even be detrimental at times.

First and foremost, we must realize that it's so easy to complain. I can complain about the weather, about the government, about my teachers, about my coworkers or classmates, and in the end, it'll serve no purpose. Whatever problems I have will still be there once everything's said and done. What did I gain? Absolutely nothing. In fact, I just wasted my breath instead of doing something more productive, such as taking steps to solve the problem. Whining is pretty much like masturbation: it's pleasurable initially, but in the long run, it's not practical and you're diminishing something within you.

Second, whining is actually detrimental. I mean when we whine, more often than not, we're criticizing someone other than ourselves. If that's the case, we're badmouthing someone else. It's well and good if the other party never gets to hear it. But more often than not, our past comes back to bite us in the ass. Whining publicly is just inviting that danger. Heck, whining publicly and keeping a record of it (such as blogging) is tempting fate. I mean thieves know that they must cover their tracks in order to avoid detection. Whining is like screaming "here I am, come after me!"

Okay, maybe you're not criticizing someone else. Maybe you're criticizing yourself. You might be saying I should have done this or that. Or telling yourself how much an idiot you are. Aside from wasting your breath, what does that do? You might be saying it's not hurting anyone. Wrong! You're hurting yourself. You're hurting your self-esteem, your self-confidence. Now occasional doubt and accepting your mistakes is good. But doubt and accountability is different from berating yourself. With the latter, you're tearing up your own persona, reducing your accomplishments to insignificance. Let's put it this way, you're not only hurting yourself, but you're also broadcasting it to other people. If you're fishing for compliments or looking for comfort from your friends, that's one thing. But if you honestly think that you're the scum of the earth, well, your friends will eventually start believing in that if you don't change soon.

Third, there's also this idea in economics called opportunity costs. The premise is simple: I give up one thing to gain another. When you whine, you just gave up something in order to rant. Take blogging for example. What did I expend in whining? There's bandwidth, memory, Internet fees, and time. Honestly, rather than spending the last 20 minutes bitching about my day, it could have been spent doing something else productive (like downloading mp3s… not that I condone that, just using it as an example). And let's face it, no one really thinks that whining is good. When you whine, it's like you're paying someone to kill you slowly by slowly (well, we do that by smoking and excessive drinking but you don't really need to add another vice to the list). There are probably cheaper poisons in the world.

Fourth, whining is contagious. When I start whining, other people start whining as well. As I said earlier, nothing is easier than to criticize. It doesn't take intelligence, it doesn't take creativity, and it certainly doesn't take empathy. Whining is like gossip: once you start it, other people start sharing their own gossip as well and it spreads. I mean the proverbial story is that some guys go out and have a drink so that they can free themselves from their woes. What they end up doing is spilling out their guts to each other, each one trying to best the other person's hardships in life. Honestly, that's not really uplifting. And the best-case scenario is that you realize that while you're not at the bottom heap, you're still considered trash. Don't drag other people into it. It's bad enough when you go about it solo.

Fifth, whining doesn't do much for your social life. You'll most likely turn off a lot of people and those that you do attract are either whiners themselves or people who pity you. While being pitied is disgraceful, at least those kinds of people will try to change you. But if you're stuck with whiners, well, don't expect your life to take a drastic change anytime soon. Whiners aren't winners for a reason: instead of spending their energy getting back up, all they do is complain.

If I'm against whining so much, why am I whining? Because this serves a purpose. This is a message that's to be publicized. Hey, if you whine less because of this, I've already done my job. If you still whine and whine, well, at least you can't whine about ignorance. Take it from a professional whiner: do yourself a favor and get your act together. Instead of whining, all that frustration could have been channeled to something more productive.

It's Always About Politics

At one point or another, we've all probably blamed politics as the cause of a problem. I mean how many times have you heard people claiming that they quit because of office politics? Or perhaps blaming certain authority figures for being too political? Or simply sick and tired of how in a certain social group, you have to be careful of what you say for fear of being socially ostracized? It all boils down to politics, and I for one hate it.

Yet as much as I dislike being political, I'm guilty of it at times. I think in the end, acting "political" can't be avoided. In fact, it's a part of life. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, it'll certainly be interpreted in the wrong way by someone. I mean just the other day, I was just giving a counter-argument to a certain idea when the discussion blew up in my face and the other person got angry at me. I certainly wasn't intending that to happen but let's face it, some people take things personally. And since we each have our own unique preferences, whether it's likes, dislikes, or preferences, somebody somewhere will always be offensive to us.

Actually if you want to remove politics in any equation, then you'll have to remove a person's individuality, their personality. I mean computers and robots don't have political problems. Then again, they don't have emotions (at least at this point in time) or egos. They simply exist and do their job. As much as we wish people to simply to do their job, whatever that may be, they'll always be doing something else. It may be daydreaming while the teacher is lecturing, or as complex as gossiping while you're on the opposite end of the cash register. Whatever the case, we're human, and we'll almost never act mechanically. Heck, I was in a call center before and despite the heavy multitasking involved, some employees manage to do something else on the job, whether it's nibbling a snack or surfing unnecessary websites.

So what's the solution other than "get used to it". I mean isn't there anything we can do to reduce politics? While it's perhaps impossible to remove the politics and intrigue that arises in a situation, its adverse effects can be controlled. I mean some politics exists because we want to appease too many people (and more often than not end up pleasing none). I think it should begin there: we can't please everyone. Accept that fact. Someone, somewhere in the world, will always find your opinion objectionable. If you can't deal with rejection, this is the time to learn it. If you're too cautious around people, afraid of showing your true self, you might end up being a non-entity. I mean the world will like and dislike people who have strong opinions, but they tend to forget those with average dispositions. I don't know but honestly, there are worse things than being disliked. Like being ignored.

Perhaps the second lesson there is that it's not personal. I mean someone will always be disliking someone else. At different points in time, it'll be you. It's not because you're you that they dislike you, but rather their own sentiments about you. Of course if you happen to dislike that other person as well, conflict will soon arise. But if that's not the case, then there's nothing you should fret about. Don't take it personally. And perhaps that's also the third most important lesson: don't take things as a personal attack on you. I mean what's the difference when an African-American calls another African-American nigger from a Caucasian American calling a dark-skinned American nigger during a pre-civil war America? In the end, it boils down to intent. The former certainly doesn't mean to insult the other person (or perhaps merely in a jesting manner rather than a wholehearted attempt to degrade the other person). Here in the Philippines, we Chinese are called Instik. It was intended as a derogatory name initially but nowadays, I don't really mind people calling me Instik. I mean if I wanted to act politically correct, I'd tell them to call me Filipino-Chinese (because that's who I am). But even my friends call me Instik and they don't mean anything derogatory about it, so it's fine with me. That's one step of not taking things personally; I'm judging the intent rather than the inherent meaning of the word (and in the end, we decide what a word really means). One of the reasons why political maneuvering is necessary is because people take things personally. As much as I love to live in a world where people can freely debate ideas and philosophies, that's not always possible because people tend to act in an irrational manner. Emotions such as jealousy, anger, denial, and pride enter the picture, and you get results like people shooting each other over a silly argument, or even losing friendships. No one wants to get shot or lose friends, and so we practice the art of politics as a barrier to prevent outward hostility (and the other side retaliates with similar political tactics). Does it work? Well, at least enemies who meet each other in public don't always result in cat-fights. There's an insult or two, a thinly veiled criticism, and then they move on. While that's not exactly an optimistic view of things, at least while there's life, there's hope.

So what does this all mean? Well, one is that as long as there is human emotion, there will always be politics. If you bitch about it, you're only digging your own grave. No matter where you go (short of finding yourself a deserted island), it'll always be there. The second is that we can control it. Politics is a product of our emotions and if we can control that, well, we can minimize the tension and conflict we might receive from such experiences. No one's promising a turmoil-free life but at least this way, one feels more confident about one's self, and we can realize who we truly are rather than keep on wearing a fa├žade just because we're afraid of offending someone.