A Complaint about Complaining

A favorite pass time of crotchety arthritic old folks. The song of the newly educated and passionate sociology student. Even the small children partake when they find something unfair. Complaining, the joyous happy noise of putrid verbal diarrhea spouting everywhere and polluting the most beautiful world we have ever known. As worry is a useless emotion, complaining is a useless use of precious language. There are many other uses for your never ending bag of hot air.

Naturally there are many problems in the world, but I have been noticing a terrible trend when people discuss these problems. While they naturally go on and on about the problems, they never dare to offer a solution or to discuss possible remedies. It is as if complaining to anyone and everyone about something will fix the problem and they don’t feel the need to do anything else about it. For example, a script of a dialogue I over heard while eating tacos on the beach in Costa Rica:


Hippy Boy: You know what’s so f-ed? (*authors note censored for you mother :))

Stoner Girl: Whaaaat is?

Hippy Boy: Agriculture in Costa Rica, man. (yes he called a girl a man) 

Stoner Girl: Oh yea! It’s so f-ed! Destroying precious rainforest for greedy capitalism.

Hippy Boy: *goes on for 5 minutes with an impressive encyclopedia of precise statistics and large numbers

Stoner Girl: *goes on for 5 more minutes with an almost practiced monologue detailing many other shocking facts

Hippy Boy: Yea, it’s so f-ed

Stoner Girl: So f-ed.


While it was genuinely impressive (and boring) that these two had spent so much time memorizing statistics from their various sources, there was absolutely no discussion. It only seemed to be a presentation showcasing the “facts” they had memorized. Indeed as you saw above, the only response was a two worded sentence including the f-bomb. While it could be encouraging to see people so fired up about a topic and doing a lot of research in that topic, if there are no new ideas discussed or solutions created, what has this conversation accomplished? The answer, dear reader is nothing. Nothing but complain, the useless form of speech. There ten minute soapbox monologues completely ruined my tacos and I love tacos. In economics we call this a negative externality. While complaining may offer the two complainers some sort of utility, the action of complaining actually causes negative side effects for those within hearing distance. For example, my once lovely taco dinner was now tainted by their useless babbeling. 

I am not saying it is not important to talk about issues in our society, but there is a huge difference between complaining and discussing. Discussion leads to new ideas and hopefully to solutions, it serves a purpose. Complaining does not. If you find yourself complaining without leaving room for discussion or positive feedback, do us all a favor and exchange your negative-externality-producing speech for one with better side effects. This is part of my daily practice.

As I was complaining, here is something to produce a positive externality to end with. A picture of Costa Rica.

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