Of Bitching and Sheep

A lot of people – especially the authority types – like to say that complaining is unproductive. They’d like you to be grateful for the things you have in your life, and will (almost too helpfully) point out any scrap of data that can support their claims. You can eat, so don’t complain! You have a roof over your head, so don’t complain! You’re still alive, so don’t complain! Be grateful, and not a single word otherwise!

Which we’d do – if life wasn’t crappy. But it is. And contrary to popular belief, we’re not running in the pain olympics.

Granted, bitching by itself is completely useless save as an exercise in releasing emotion (and seeking peer approval). But even though its inherent value may be non-existent, people still possess the right to complain about circumstances whether or not their situation warrants it. To insist on taking away that right is to deliberately censor another person’s opinion in place of your own comfort.

This is especially pronounced when people of authority insist on forcing a rosy picture despite incredibly depressing odds. Too often, the idea of gratitude is pushed by these individuals as part of a bigger agenda to make people more docile and less restive – while they continue a status quo that only benefits their interests. As long as you keep your head down and count what little you have, you will never look up and see what you’ve missed.

Of what use is food if it is rotten? Of what use is a day that you spend toiling for little? Of what use is a life that seems like a never-ending miserable slog, cowering in fear at every sound?

The priest this morning spoke of being grateful, but the subtext was clear: that such gratitude was only valid if absolute to the point of blind obedience. I wondered how he – and by extension, the church that he represented – could say such things with the violence that was happening every day. Perhaps he was simply toeing the line, eager to keep the faithful calm in order to avoid having to address the painful truths that they woke up to each day. Perhaps he was being complicit in this ideology of misplaced responsibility, that someone else would take the initiative to do the right thing.

Perhaps he was grateful that the people were still sheep.

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