Szyperski: Complain, complainWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I hate to complain, but … You just knew there was going to be a “but” there, didn’t you? Yes, “I hate to complain, but I’m going to anyway” is the modern American way. It may be the way of the modern world as a whole, but I’m a typical egocentric American so I really can’t say for sure. Being typical, I’m going to go ahead with my complaint. I hate to complain, but I would like to take a few hundred words to critique our progress.
There is an episode of “The Simpsons” that is a fantastic allegory of modern life in America and beyond. Homer lands what appears to be a wonderful new job and the family seems to get everything they’ve always wanted. Homer has an understanding boss, Marge is virtually chore-less in a self-cleaning house and Lisa is surrounded by the outdoor wonderland she has always dreamed of. Despite happening upon the life they think they’ve always wanted, Homer’s boss turns out to be a much different person than he first thought, Marge is bored and Lisa doesn’t quite enjoy nature as much as she thought.
Much like the Simpson family’s trek into a pseudo-utopia, we’re living longer, more abundant lives than in centuries past, but we’re honestly still kind of miserable at times. Or most of the time.
Many major medical, financial, safety, social and other hurdles had been significantly lowered or removed altogether in our neck of the woods before we were even born, allowing us freedoms our foremothers and forefathers couldn’t even imagine. Wild animals are unlikely to maul us to death, most of us don’t need to travel hundreds of miles over rugged terrain just to look for work, invisible hazards in our food and water are probably not going to sicken our families tonight and we can spend our summers lounging at the pool instead of worrying about polio killing our children.
We don’t really feel that much better about our current, much-improved state of affairs, however. We still seem to be convinced that we live in the most dangerous, most difficult time in the history of the world. In the past 100 years, we’ve added about 25 years to our life expectancy due to many perils of the past being significantly lessened, yet we likely spend that extra time just worrying about peril anyway.
We worry that the water purification process that has aided in removing the words “cholera” and “typhoid” from our everyday vocabulary is somehow sickening us in new, less obvious ways. We worry that the immunizations that have severely limited and even eradicated once-feared diseases are silently attacking us too. We rally against the innovations our ancestors would have given up nearly anything for in order to protect their children from harm. Even those of us who do appreciate them on some level still have the disrespect to complain about having to pay for that which past generations would have considered bona fide miracles.
Oh, how we complain. We complain about the speed of machines that were barely fathomable to the average person even 20 or 30 years ago. We then use those same machines to complain about any other little thing we can possibly think of. All day, every day.
I wonder if all of the complaining and lack of appreciation have to do with being born into the wealth of our society without knowing firsthand what it was like to first go without such things. Yet, I can’t help but think of how some in our elder generations seem to enjoy debunking the innovation that has come to our younger generations. In my day, we didn’t need computers or cellphones or video games, just like generations past didn’t need washing machines or automobiles or telephones or electricity.
It’s not so much that we necessarily need such things, but do we really need to complain about having them? Do we really need to complain about most everything? What good is having it good if you don’t think of it as good?
If our supposed through-the-roof stress levels are any indication, the easier life our predecessors imagined for us and worked so hard for isn’t really that much easier after all.
Apparently having the world as your oyster is much more stressful than having the world as your canvas. I hate to complain, but
it’s not really progress until we
allow ourselves to be happier and more content.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.