These Days in the Culture of Complaint

town-crierIn an eight-year-old thread, a new visitor, David Meyer, left a comment addressed to a one-time visitor here from long ago. Comboxes on blogs are public spaces. Like an old town square. If one is sure somebody lives within earshot, one could issue a message in a loud voice and likely be heard by many people, possibly even the target of one’s communication. If said target came and left eight years ago, I’d suppose the chances of the intended recipient hearing the message are near nil.

(M)y point was to leave a comment that others doing a similar search might find, and they could see something reasonable, rather than the pandering from you and others here.

I think I get this. A traveler arrives in a new town, searching for a person 104 months removed. He dislikes that the local innkeep gave him a room, and the local barkeep gave him a drink. It was bad that others withheld criticism of his minstrelsy. So the village mayor is found objectionable. And the hope is that others who hang around the community will find the newcomer “reasonable.”

Do I have it right?

From Mr Meyer:

I really don’t get your bizarre insistence on this. No, my children will not likely be exposed to his music, other than the occasional funeral or wedding. And when they are on occasion, they are embarrassed to hear it in a mass, as all non-brainwashed people are embarrassed of it. So yes, there is something small I can do to change things. 6 children is small but its the best I can do.

I think it is laudable to wish the best for one’s children. People play Mozart while the child is in the womb. They invest in the best schools, food, and often, store the tv set in the closet, if one is in the house at all.

For a relativist you sure believe what you are saying is absolute. Sheesh. Ironic really.

I’m not sure what relativity has to do with the topic. Even a re-definition of the word to mean “a way of conversing with me that I don’t like.” I suggested that the offered comment was objectively insulting. Mr Meyer doesn’t see it that way. I suggested there is no way for a modern Catholic to avoid music composed by Marty Haugen. For most people at weddings and funerals, they shrug and move along–the focus is on the couple or deceased and their attendant families and friends. Not many people make a point of protesting on such occasions. I can imagine a conversation in the Meyer pew at Aunt Susie’s wedding …

“Kids, do you hear that music? It is puerile campfire crap composed by a hippie.”

“What’s a hippie?”

“Shh; I want to see the dress.”

I characterize such efforts as part of a general “culture of complaint.” Cardinals complain about the pope. A New York Times columnist complains said red hats don’t get the time of day from the pope. Supporters of Mr Trump complain their vanquished foe won’t be jailed. Supporters of the election’s loser complain about a two-hundred-year old idea that balances out power between large political entities like Texas and Florida, and small ones like Rhode Island and a federal district. The winner fusses that he really won after all because a few million people cheated.

It’s all part of a narrative in which a modern person can have what she or he wants when she or he wants it the way she or he wants it. Frankly, it doesn’t strike me as all that Christian, religious, spiritual, or even mature. Tantrum-ish, I would say.

To be sure, complaints aren’t just for two-year-olds. They often serve a useful purpose to right wrongs, address grievances, and express a positive self-esteem in the face of persecution.

On the other hand, there is a great virtue spoken of by saints. Prudence. It suggests that just because something can be said doesn’t mean it should be uttered. The believer who aspires to the spiritual life might also practice an interior serenity: things I cannot change might concern me less or not at all. There is something in the wisdom of knowing how to discern the difference in one’s life.

People are free here to comment. Even when the Google sends them my way. Marty Haugen is long gone. I am sure that a diligent search of the internet will uncover a means of communicating with him directly, even if it means traveling some distance and holding up a placard outside of one of his engagements. It might even teach some children a lesson. But I would be cautious about a possible difference between the intended learning and the actual catechesis rendered.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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