God I love complaining! I just don’t know what I’d do with myself without something to kick and scream about!
Now, in all seriousness, let it be said that it is not good to be constantly upset by this, that, or the other thing, but over the years as I’ve gotten better and better at being contrary I’ve developed somewhat of a pseudo-philosophy concerning the matter. So many people spend hours a day complaining. Some, like those in the so-called “news”media make a living out of it. As such it is shocking how many are so bad at it. Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to throw a fit.
People like me who enjoy a little righteous indignation on a daily basis are often construed as pessimistic Negative Nancies. Nothing could be further form the truth. Just because I see things that annoy me does not mean I’m depressed or that I hate living. I like to think I just have high standards. Well, maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but listening to some of these reactionaries fail at being controversial is really quite disappointing. Here are a few things to keep in mind for anyone who like to stir the pot from time to time:
1) There are no big deals!
We live in what Greg Gutfeld calls the “age of phony outrage”. People love to be offended and to let the world know it. The left sees racism and homophobia everywhere, and the right fears anything that might be seen as an “agenda”. It would be better for everyone if we all took a chill pill. Relax. There are no big deals. Ever. Some people think the way to let you know how serious they are about an issue is to be as absolutely dour and indignant as possible. This easily slips into sanctimony and self-righteousness. One should always maintain a healthy amount of humor in one’s discourse. Detachment and flippancy are the keys to avoiding phony outrage. Observe the blasé tone Christopher Hitchens always maintained, even with regards to issues he felt passionate about. Both Sandy Rios and Chris Matthews would be far more tolerable if they’d only remember George Carlin’s maxim: “I have no stake outcome.”
2) Be irreverent.
There are no sacred cows. There is nothing, no person or event or tragedy above ridicule. Never be vicious, but always be willing to lampoon anything considered “holy ground” (to borrow a phrase form a well-known California congresswoman). Iconoclasm is your friend*. Let no one tell you who your idols should be. How much dynamic discourse has been silenced because people feel they ought not to criticize say Abraham Lincoln, or Maya Angelou, or Nelson Mandela, or even one of my personal favorites, the soon-to-be Pope St. John Paul II? Nothing is off-limits. There are certain societal conventions built around the worship of certain events or institutions. This tendency for some reason breaks out like herpes in the case of tragedies. You can’t criticize the embarrassing decade of mourning, hysteria, and fear-mongering that has followed 9/11 because how will the families feel? You can’t make snarky jokes about the holocaust or slavery because these tragedies are considered sacrosanct and therefore off-limits. Eschew this tendency. For some reason people seem to think that if you’re irreverent with respect to something or someone that means you take it less seriously. This is not the case. Believe me, your life gets much easier when you realize that everything is hilarious.
3) Stay humble.
Yeah, I’m pretty much bad at this one. But remember Our Lord’s words: “Remove the speck from your own eye”. Admitting the possibility that you are wrong always tempers arrogance and unpleasantness. Nobody ever threw a hissy fit on TV who said, “Hey, I could be wrong.” This applies even in situations in which you know you are right. I know God exists. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind. However, there is no such thing as 100 per cent assurance of anything. Surety is the enemy of wisdom. It stunts the growth of knowledge and generally produces bad fruit. Remember, only God knows the whole picture. One can be adamant, outrageous, even a little mad (we all go a little mad sometimes), without being a belligerent tool. Stand your ground, be offensive, but be tasteful if you can.
4) Don’t apologize when you’re not wrong.
We see this phony apologizing a lot these days. Someone says something offensive or controversial and after a firestorm on Twitter they feel they need to apologize. Certainly there are times for apologizing. If you were wrong about something, admit it, but never feel forced into an apology. Returning to our good friend the late Christopher Hitchens, I recall after the death of that charlatan Jerry Falwell, Mr. Hitchens made quite a seen telling the world what an unnaturally despicable character the late reverend was. Hitchens was one hundred per cent right of course, but along came Falwell’s defenders trying to guilt him into apologizing for all the nasty things he said. Hitchens knew he was right and refused to back down, even at the squawking gong of Sean Hannity (a truly epic segment in every way). Take his example. No one likes an insincere apology.
As you can tell, I’ve spent a lot of time working this all out in my head. This is just a cursory overview. I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the future. For now, here’s atheist-turned-Catholic blogger Leah Libresco** adding a scientific perspective to arguments: