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February 25, 2003

No Sympathy For The Whiners Of The World!

I just started reading Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert for my Slavic 133 class, and I thought I'd share what I got from reading the first part, because it seems as though something that one would post in an (online) journal.

In brief, the first part relates the story of Emma Rouault, who gets married to a hopelessly unambitious, mediocre, and uninteresting doctor, and her subsequent discontentment with life. While I suppose that the conditions that Flaubert uses to describe her existence seem fairly hopeless and depressing, I still felt little sympathy for the character of Emma Bovary while reading the novel. In my opinion, her entire reaction to her living conditions, whether it be rejecting all household duties, beating the servants, or becoming moody and irrational, did not raise any sympathy from me, and in fact, it made me dislike her more. I could not discern for certain whether the intention of the author was to make the reader sympathetic towards Madame Bovary, or not, but in any case, I felt the most sympathy for Charles, who despite his mediocre abilities was making a valiant effort to establish his life, and found contentment in his wife, and his fate.

The distinction between these two characters is not merely fictional, because it is readily applicable to my own life. So many people I have met in my life and gotten to know well, can be likened to either one or the other of these two main characters. One type seeks contentment in both their natural abilities and their existence, while the other harbors an insatiable desire for more and better and remains bitter at how everyone's life is better than theirs. I have always been angered by the self-pitying nature of people, because I myself don't understand it.

My viewpoint on life (whether visible to others or not) has always been fairly positive, and I have never been one to dwell on the hardships that I encountered. The main reason is that I consider self-pity to be a complete waste of time, given that it can neither heal any wounds nor solve any problems. The only thing it brings around is depression and bitterness, which only worsens one's own condition. The other, possibly more important, side-effect of self-pity is the innate justification it provides, in dismissing one's failures on one's shortcomings rather than trying to work on improving on those problems. So WHAT if your life sucks? So what if you have problems? Show me someone who doesn't have problems! The only difference between people is in how they deal with their problems, not that one group has problems and the other doesn't.

While these type of people make me angry in general, what I find most infuriating is the rich, upper (middle) class suburbanites who sit and whine all day about how their life is devoid of all pleasure because they didn't get the latest car or their dad told them they couldn't stay out late that night, or they had a hard breakup with a significant other of two weeks. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU SELF-CENTERED IDIOTS?! There is a lot more to life than materialistic pursuits and foolish, immature, destined-to-fail relationships! While you fools are living comfortably, probably at the expense of your parents, people are working hard just to get by. And I don't claim to understand what they go through either, because I have never experienced that and hopefully I never will. At the same time, I don't sit around complaining to anyone and anything that will listen about all the problems in my life either.

It's OK to once in a while whine or complain about all the things that are going wrong in your life, and I readily admit that I too do this from time to time. However, I never let my discontentment consume me, and that is the fundamental distinction I make between myself and the whiners of the world. I think of all the people I meet, the ones I hold in highest regard are those who can acknowledge what they have and be happy in this state. This is not to say that ambition and the desire to rise up on the social ladder is bad or wrong, because I myself am highly ambitious. All I'm saying is that people need to spend more time acknowledging the good in their lives and less time dwelling on the negative aspects.

I actually didn't want to get so worked up about this particular topic, but I suppose it's been on my mind for more years than I care to remember (probably since 7th grade, when I first consciously acknowledged a lame ass with acute The Other Side Is Greener Syndrome). I guess that's what happens when you get into literature. Once again, I have to say that it's really refreshing to take a different type of class, because I am rediscovering what an avid reader I have always been. Who knows? Maybe more English courses lie in my collegiate future?


While I agree that self-pity isn't an admirable trait, whining continuously because daddy didn't buy you a new car is indeed sad, and beating one's servants (wtf?) definitely isn't a way to handle your problems, I think you're being a bit harsh here. If someone feels helpless in that they can't fix a problem, what are they supposed to do? Live with this life-altering situation and just "deal with it" because YOU don't like how pitiful they may feel? You've deemed them a loser in life because they can't fix what they need to and they feel bad about it. Who cares where they live or who is supporting them? How were you supported? Scholarship, parents, were you a "working class hero"? Does that make you better than someone else?

It's easier said than done to just "get over it", whatever it may be, especially when it could come down to clinical depression. I think some people are incapable of being happy by default and I don't believe that's entirely their fault. You seem to. I'd say that in a lot of situations, complaining is sort of a call for help.

The sad truth is that no one's going to fix your problems for you, so complaining is indeed useless. People are generally self centered and it's doubtful anyone is interested in your seemingly trivial problems anyway, as you've shown. (They're always trivial when they aren't yours.)

I think we both agree: better to just bottle it up and suffer in silence. And if you can't change things yourself, well then, you're screwed. C'est la vie, eh?

Db, interesting perspective. In reading what I wrote more than four years ago, I concur that I was indeed quite harsh in my assessment.

Without a doubt, I still find that people who complain about problems and topics that I find to be trivial annoy me to no end, but to each their own. What I find trivial may or may not seem trivial to another. I am no one to judge.

I wrote an entry about this topic last fall that I feel better summarizes my thinking now.

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