I am not the only person who does this. Typically, people who take themselves too seriously will also suffer from the above affliction.

The Format

A typical whine or complaint* has a very simple structure: subject + bummer verb; explanation. This is very easy to embellish, vis a vis: bummer adjective + subject + bummer verb and + bummer verb; explanation. Additional bummers and explanations may be added ad nauseum. For example:

Root whine: This soup stinks. It's nasty.

Which can be modified to:

This totally rotten, lousy, filthy, icky-poo, fungaloid soup stinks, sucks, sputters, stutters, and spits. It's so very utterly nasty that I can hardly stand to node about it.

Now, a qualitatively different sort of complaint is the personalized whine, in which you declare that the subject bummer-verbs for you specifically. The implication is that the subject could possibly posi-verb** someone else. The structure is a little more complex, but basically amounts to the insertion of a me-variable denominator or explanation within the root whine. For example:

I think this soup stinks. I find it nasty. (Note that a personalized or subjective whine does not require as much of an explanation as an objective one.)


This soup stinks, because it tells me to kill people. (Implication: the soup might not do that to others.)

All well and good. These are, if you will, constructive whines and complaints. They have a definitive purpose. Both the complainer and the hearer are aware of what is going on, and why. The complaint stands up to scrutiny, even if not to argument.

The Problem

A problem arises when a person takes the quite simple complaint structure, and personalizes it away from themselves. One can do this with some integrity, if the person for whom the complaint is intended is a specific target, i.e., my dog, my cat, my mom, the sky, Matt Damon. Example: "This soup stinks. Matt Damon is going to hate it."

The Hypothesis

It can be demonstrated that the evil inherent in the complaint is inversely proportional to the specificity of the projected target. Rephrased: as you project your whine out to hazier and hazier targets, it becomes more and more nefarious. Need more examples?

This book stinks. We can't teach this in schools! A whole lot of the children won't be able to understand it, and will feel bad.

This movie stinks. Some unspecified person will doubtlessly take the glorified violence and sexual misconduct to heart. I won't, but I'm sure someone will.

This difficult concept stinks. I can understand it, but there are a lot of people who would find it confusing, so I am furious.

Your noding/voting/chinging style stinks. It hasn't affected me personally, or anybody I know personally, but on the off-chance that it might affect someone, I am furious.

Important: note that any of the above complaints can be used with a great deal of persuasive power. As a matter of fact, they gain power from the fact that their objects are large, faceless masses of people (rather than a single individual who you can risk not losing sleep over). It is also not good to assume that every projective and unspecific complaint is bad -- some of them can indeed be pertinent or even necessary. However, they also, by definition, lose integrity merely in the act of being said.

After all, who are you to whine on behalf of people you don't even know? Particularly if the complaint is in regards to something that does not directly affect you?

Another problem arises due to the selfless nature of projective whining. People will go farther, be meaner, step harder, and stay longer if they are whining for the good of x rather than just their own petty wishes. There is also a consistency issue: the more vague your target group, the more frequently you can shift their prospective needs and desires to make your point.

As I have mentioned above, I am frequently guilty of this practice. However, I know that it helps me to be reminded occasionally of how (potentially) silly I am being. The destructive possibilities of an expansive complaint always run the risk of outweighing the possible benefits.

Be careful out there.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

* Note: yes, I have used the words whine and complain interchangeably, and I am aware that they do not mean exactly the same thing. However, since they may be both used in the above manner, I thought it fit to include both without making much distinction.

** I am not above making up words occasionally. I am heartily sorry.

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