The art of complaining: It can change the world

Beth Rankin

I talk a lot. No, really. Ask my friends or anyone I’ve worked with in Student Media. I talk a lot.

I’d say 30 percent of my speech is allocated for questions. I ask a lot of questions. A new friend I made recently – who just happened to have spent the last decade of his life in federal lockup – was, no doubt, thrilled when I interrupted his World of Warcraft battle with two-and-a-half hours of queries such as: Is it really that easy to buy drugs in prison? Do prisoners ever make friends with guards? Can you get soap on a rope from the prison commissary? (The answer – to all three – was ‘Yes, if you have money.’)

The remaining 55 percent of what comes out of my mouth (not counting the 15 percent reserved for obscenities) is straight complaining. Before you yawn preemptively or tell me to ‘Shut the f*ck up, hippie’ (popular feedback after my somewhat unpopular guest column last semester on the, shall we say, eccentricities of life on University Drive), hear me out, because complaining has gotten a bad rap lately. I personally think complaining deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

In fact, it already has.

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change” went to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and none other than Al Gore, the former vice president trying to change the world one Power Point presentation at a time.

That entire movie? It was one monumental complaint about the ways thoughtless people and industries have been ravaging our air, water and landscape. Gore stood on a stage with a pre-written speech and some moving infographics and said, “This blows.” And look at the end result. He didn’t single-handedly save the world from global warming, but even the Nobel committee is willing to give him credit for laying the groundwork.

The same goes for most social problems in the world. From poverty to health care to the criminally high cost of books and tuition, a complaint is made. Someone gets mad; changes are made. Now, sometimes the road to change is paved with ill intentions, and sometimes major change feels like it may never come, but minor change moves us in the right direction. If one less person sleeps on the street tonight, one less patient dies just because he couldn’t pay for a new kidney, one less university allows bloodsucking book resellers to mercilessly rape our already empty wallets (*cough* every bookstore in Kent *cough*), well, that’s changing the world bit by bit, and it certainly beats the alternative.

So, yeah, I’ve got a few things I can complain about. You’d be surprised the things you can learn about your town and your university when you open your ears to the complaints of others.

My goal this semester is just that – to teach you more about the community where you live and go to school. I’ll try to keep the obscenities to a minimum.

Beth Rankin is a senior photojournalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].