The Trap of Complaining

TehTarik Journal

If anybody says “Singaporeans like to complain”, very few Singaporeans will disagree.

Don’t try hitching a ride with a driver-friend (or even just being in a taxi with a grumpy driver) in rush hour. The driver will complain that the roads are too congested, yet in the same sentence, rant about how unfair that the cost of owning a car is drastically increasing. I tried to point out how the whole idea of making car ownership expensive is precisely to avoid becoming a mini-Bangkok. (Of course I lost. You can’t win when the other party isn’t being rational.)

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t complain. We need an outlet, and in this digital age, it is mind-numbingly easy to bang out a complaint that reaches a relatively wide audience. I once left a beautifully sarcastic complaint on a restaurant’s Facebook page about being ignored by their staff for half an hour during off-peak hours because well, they deserved it, but more importantly, how else would they know that their afternoon shift staff had no idea how to seat customers?

That being said, it is easy to fall into the trap of complaining for the sake of complaining, especially when we are convinced that we have no other option. But how true is that really? I detest my current telco (for various offences that are too long to list here), but after wasting my time and energy on many calls and trips, I simply gave up and swore to jump ship when I could. (And I will this month – hurray for SIM-only plans!)

There is a fine line between complaining for the sake of complaining, and complaining because you honestly want to see something change. As Maya Angelou says, ““What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” I prefer a former boss’ take: “If you’re not happy, either you do something about it, or shut up.” So dear Singaporeans: let’s try to complain meaningfully and stop complaining just because we can.



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