Lately, I have noticed a persistent whining sound coming from my computer. Further investigation -- trying different computers and devices in different locations -- has shown me that it is not my computer that is at fault, but the internet itself.
Actually, the problem is not exactly with the internet, but because of the internet.
You see, the internet has enabled people to complain to a far greater audience than they could ever have imagined just a decade ago.
And before you say it, yes, I recognize the irony that I am complaining on the internet. But there's complaining, and then there's complaining, so to speak.
We all have something that irks us, some pet peeve (or peeves, as the case may be) that we just have to get off our collective chest.
But there are some who seem to do nothing but complain, who seem to believe that the entire worls needs to hear there greivance, however petty.
Indeed, we all have the right to our opinions, and even to express those opinions. But, just because you can, it doesn't mean you should.
My feeling is that a complaint ought to be followed immediately by a suggestion for improvement. A reasonable suggestion, by the way.
Saying that you don't like this or that, and anyone who does should just fall off the face of the Earth would not be "reasonable."
Case in point: a golf course in British Columbia has instituted a change intended to attract younger players to the game. One day per week (let me repeat, one day per week) they cut 8-inch cups into the greens, instead of the regulation 4-1/4-inch cups. The feeling is that golf should be fun, not frustrating. (Anyone who, like me, regularly 5-putts a hole would appreciate the "frustrating" aspect of golf.)
Of course the purists -- no one states their handicap when making comments, but one gets the impression these folks will be vying for the Green jacket next year -- are outraged. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth (figuratively) on the internet. Comments range from "Foolish!" and "Stupid!" to suggestions that the integrity of the game will be irreparably harmed.
Someone asked, "Why not let them use hockey sticks instead of the small head on a club?" Apparently this person hasn't seen the newer clubs that are available, with a head like half a basketball hanging on the end of the shaft.
One wag even suggested, "People start screwing with the size of the hole and all hell will break loose." However, I'm not sure he was talking about golf.
Only a handful of comments supported this one-day per week change.
But I digress.
There are any number of topics that come up, in news items, feature pieces, or announcements by various groups. And, thanks to the instant and anonymous abillity to reply online, thousands of people get to tell the world what a bad idea it was.
And again, we're all entitled to our opinion, but... if all you have to say is nagative, how is that helpful to anyone?
I have been involved in Ontario Youth Parliament, a non-denominational model parliament for young people. Since its ince people with instruction and opportunity to debate relevant issues facing society.
A debate, as defined by Oxford, is "A formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote." For a debate to end in a vote suggests that a resolution must be sought. Not everyone will agree, but in the end there will be a consesnsus expressed, to which all parties agree to abide.
In other words, it's not just a gripe session, where people air their complaints and are not happy if other views are expressed.
Of course, an online discussion does not end in a vote, and consensus is rarely achieved. But such discussions should be engaged in for the sake of sharing ideas, not beating each other over the head with opposing views.
A more local example is the recent article on the redevelopment of the former Plummer Hospital site.
One gets the impression that many of the posters had not even read the article. Even those who likely did had very little good to say.
There were complaints about the sale price (too low!); the integrity of the contractor; the price of the newly-developed condominium units; the fact that these would be mid- to high-end condos and not affordable housing, or senior's housing, and more.
And of course, very few of the complaints were followed up with suggestion on how the situation could be improved.
Very few people acknowledged that this was a very positive move, a redevelopment of a building that might otherwise have been demolished, something that would enhance the City's waterfront
I have often been accused of "sitting on the fence." I try to explain that this is because I see merit to both sides of an issue. For me, rarely is an issue simply 'black or white,' 'yes or no.'
Unfortunately, people have adopted a very polarized attitude to everything. There are no longer degrees of good or bad.
And, if someone does not whole-heartedly agree with you, they are (a) completely wrong, and (b) worthy of being called the vilest of insulting names.
And that makes me sad.
I am reminded of the old american Indian proverb: "Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins."
Try to see things from another's point of view before shooting them down. Maybe things aren't all that black-and-white.
Maybe there is merit to be found on both sides of an argument.
One of my favourite songs is Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth."
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Words to live by.
But... that's just my opinion.