I have lived abroad almost one-third of my life, but not quite. For 29% percent of my life, and all as an adult, I have lived in Great Britain, Malta, and Canada, also living in more than half of the United States. I think I have met a fair percentage of foreigners, not to mention my holidays in Luxembourg, Italy, and France.
Travelling changes a person. Or, it should. Travelling makes a person more open, more compassionate, more interesting, more accommodating. Or, it should.
Recently, a Catholic said to me that she believed that no one should marry someone outside his or her own culture. My immediate response was to point out that America was the great melting pot of cultures. If I had had more time to discuss this topic, I would have pointed out that the people of Britain have been marrying foreigners for centuries. I also could have noted that if one is a practicing Catholic, one is sharing culture, regardless of nationalities. The culture of Catholicism transcends racial and national boundaries. However, this person and the others with whom I was with that day, insisted that strangers from a strange land are to be avoided.
How sad and how un-Christian, much less un-Catholic this attitude is.
In those years which belong to the 29% of my life, I have met the “Complainers,” and today was a special day for them to come out of the cupboard. Not only did I hear in the charity shop where I was in a queue that the queue was odd and not going in the right direction (from a queue expert who apparently needed to complain), that the buses were always late, which is not true, and that the weather is now awful, which is true. Complainers especially like to complain about anyone under the age of 40.
Those who belong to the sub-culture of Complainers complain about EVERYTHING and EVERYONE—the pastor, the altar servers, the choir, the postman, the neighbours, the neighbours’ dogs and cats, the country council, the lack of parking, the neighbours again, and so on…
Today, after witnessing a bunch of Complainers when I went out to the town, I began to wonder what caused a person to become a Complainer.
One person was complaining about her new flat, the tenants, the organisation of the company, and so on. She went on and on about all the horrid people in this new complex she moved into recently.
I then realised that the topic did not matter. Like those who do not like “foreigners,” the topic is immaterial. The Complaint is King.
Six things mark a real member of the Complainers Club, a not-so exclusive club here in Auld Blighty.
First of all, the persons are usually over the age of 60. Now, I am way over the age of 60, so some of these Complainers are from my generation.
Second, most of them are women—sorry, this is true. Listening to Complainers for the 15 years I have lived in Great Britain, I can honestly say that the female membership of the Complainers Club out-numbers the men.
Third, most of them are middle-class, upper middle-class to be exact, and have the usual many opinions of the comfortable middle class. Complainers like to complain about “nine foreigners living in one flat” as a great evil, not understanding that the vast majority of people in the world live in crowded, close family circles which include everyone who needs a place to live. The typical upper middle-class lady in my part of the world lives alone and would never dream of having an extended family circle. The Protestant middle-class values are compared to those of other nations, and those values of other nations, are, of course, invalid, or worse, immoral.
Four, an absolutely necessary trait of being in the Complainers Club is that one must be self-righteous and judgmental. Complaining is a by-product of criticism, and, sadly, sins of pride and false judgement.
Someone told me that Complainers are insecure. No, I do not believe that. They seem very secure, indeed. Some have definite narcissistic tendencies.
Another characteristic of a complainer, number five, is that they are convinced of their superiority when they compare themselves with other nationalities and peoples.
The last characteristic is that, although many are well-travelled, these yearly or bi-yearly, or quarterly treks to the Holy Land, or Iceland, or Greece, or Las Vegas, or New York, or Toronto, or Sidney or Melbourne, have not resulted in tolerance and even an admiration for the foreigners they have met. On the contrary, the critical attitude of the Complainer is obvious when he or she speaks of his or her vacations. Imagine going for three weeks in Norway on a fjord cruise, or to Capri for a month, or Corfu for two weeks twice a year and complaining?
“Oh, it was lovely, but…..”
Fill in the blank quiz:
1) The Swedish captain of the ship was horribly over-weight. And, there was too much food. No one wanted to play bridge.
2) The wife of the concierge in Capri was so rude because she did not bring us tea in the morning to our rooms, and there were no kettles.
3) The hotel staff was (oh no) all Filipino. I never saw so many Filipinos.
4) The food was just fine, nothing spectacular, as we thought it would be in a Hilton Hotel. Too modern, the food was too modern.
5) It was too sunny in the Cayman Islands. We won’t go again.
6) I brought all the right clothing but it rained for seven days in Las Vegas, so I had to buy more clothes, which I did not want to do.(Um, she went in February.)
7) The Americans are too loud.
8) The Italians are too loud.
9) The Norwegians are too cold.
10) Although the food was cheaper than at home, we could not find any British food.
11) I was disappointed in the fjords.
12) They served odd food in the Rhineland, like sauerkraut. And, when we went to Russia, they used too much cream in everything.
14) The Holy Land was, well, too difficult. We won’t go again.
15) “I find mountains very dull. They lack refinement”….“I cannot abide a mountain.” From Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice
I stick the last number 15 in this list to indicate that this type of complaining is not new, as Jane Austen satirised it more than once in her books.
Now the difference between complaining and making conversations about facts, such as there being too much food on cruises, which we all know, is that the Complainer is making a point of distinction between silly and some frequently racist opinions and a statement of fact, which may be annoying, such as cruise liners offering too much food and wasting it. The Complainer is very democratic in her complaining. No nationality is left out. However, the motive is not a sense of social-justice or a desire to amend a possible problem, but merely to complainer. Remember, the Complaint is King.
I am convinced that pernicious Complainers are not only self-centred, but live in a small mind of their own making. They take this mind with them to foreign places and return with it as well, untouched.
Complainers also like to correct other people in public, such as “Can’t you see you are in the wrong queue?” Or, “What you do not know what lemon curd is? How stupid?” Or, “How long do we have to wait for this ….?” All of this is said in loud voices so that everyone can hear.
The British use to be known for their politeness.
This type of public correction indicates that the Complainer has managerial skills gone awry. Could they all be control-freaks?
I had to complain about Complainers today as I was surrounded by them in all the shops. It is mid-term and the children have a week off of school. How many complaints about how awful it is to have the children home all week, did I hear? Sad…also I had to complain as I believe that the inhabitants of this once fair isle have fallen Into a permanent negative state which will only get worse. Of course, without being focussed on God and others, it is too easy to complain instead of being grateful and praising the Almighty for the beautiful sunny beaches of the Cayman Islands.
I keep a grateful diary and try and write something in it daily. Today, I write, thank you, God, for giving friends with cheerful dispositions. Well, most of them are Irish!
JMJ, pray for us!
God is good,