At a Glance
- Why Don't We Complain" by William F. Buckley Jr. explores the reasons for the lack of public protest in contemporary society and suggests methods for individuals to become more engaged and vocal citizens."
Rhetorical Analysis of “Why Don’t We Complain” Essay
Passive compliance and proclivity to avoid complaining in trivial situations have become the national psyche of the American people. People’s notorious political apathy is a related phenomenon that feeds on their attitude of aloofness from uncomfortable situations and will ultimately consume the founding principle of America; liberty. Read through Why Don’t We Complain Summary to get the essay’s main idea.
Why Don’t We Complain Summary
Writer, talk show host, and editor William F. Buckley Jr wrote an essay, “why don’t we complain,” in 1961 that describes the American people’s proclivity to shirk complaining in uncomfortable situations. They don’t complain enough. He is trying to convince Americans that they should start to complain. Throughout the essay, Buckley uses personal anecdotes, imagery, and asyndeton to convey his message against passive compliance and political apathy when governments are slowly taking hold of power from individuals to invest it in far-off places.
American people are becoming more politically and socially compliant. The root cause of this sense of resignation is their failure to complain and accept inconvenience when confronted with a potentially awkward situation. Why Don’t We Complain essay is an attempt to persuade his audience that they are reluctant and hesitant to voice their opinions, and it is time to start complaining.
Instinct to Complain
Buckley narrates a story of “train temperatures in the dead of winter…;” when the temperature on a train must have been about 85 degrees while it was below freezing point outside. Every passenger was sweating at 85 degrees without complaint temperature on the train. The conductor was walking down the aisle nonchalantly checking tickets, but the supine free Americans suffered in silence instead of registering a complaint to the authorities. Buckley argues that people could not use their instinct to complain.
We wait for someone else to raise the issue instead of making our voices heard. Buckley describes other examples that highlight the apathetic attitude of Americans. He describes another incident of watching a movie in the cinema with his wife, the picture was out of focus, and no one complained throughout the movie. Everyone kept assuming that someone attached to the cinema management would notice the blur and make the correction. People sitting in front kept assuming that people sitting near the rear of the house would complain on behalf of the latter, but nothing happened; the movie ended out of focus. The other similar incident where he managed to muster enough courage to complain to an air hostess to remove the empty lunch tray so he could get some papers out of his briefcase lying under his feet.
Acceptance of Inconvenient Situations
People would rather accept inconveniences instead of taking action, and the reason no one did is that we are all increasingly anxious in America to be unobtrusive. We are reluctant to make our voices heard when we might have been confronted with an inconvenient situation. We are hesitant to claim our rights; we are afraid that our cause is unjust, or that if it is not unjust, it is ambiguous; or if not even that, that it is too trivial to justify the horrors of a confrontation with Authority; we will sit in an oven or endure a racking headache before undertaking a head-on, I’m-here-to-tell-you complaint. That tendency to passive compliance, to a heedless endurance, is something to keep one’s eyes on — in sharp focus.
Freedom of Speech Demands Assertiveness
The author has made himself the centre of attention for the audience by making himself incapable of confronting potentially awkward situations and incapable of making a discreet fuss. Buckley states that freedom of speech demands assertiveness and courage to speak up. The essay is not just about ordinary complaining about trivial issues but is tied to huge political and social issues. Buckley attempts to support that the apathy that Americans would accept inconveniences instead of taking action is the cause that power drains away from the individual to the state. They have less and less say about the shape of events that shape their future.
Buckley’s ideas about assertiveness and helplessness bring some deep and complex issues confronting everyone. Laziness and passive compliance are the underlying cause of many Americans’ apathy toward huge political and social issues. In Buckley’s essay “Why Don’t We Complain ?” he explains some situations he was involved in where no one would complain to repair an uncomfortable situation and warns that apathy towards small inconveniencies will reflect apathy towards bigger issues with grave consequences. Sitting back and hoping to accept what comes will never work for anyone. Aloofness from issues that concern us will only strengthen the government’s hold upon us. Buckley explains that the underlying reason for such resigned and noncomplaining conduct is the technological advancement and centralized political and economic power of modern times. In the past, people had to be self-sufficient for their basic existence, but now we have the luxury of electricians, artisans, mechanics, etc. Overabundance and overdependence on governments have certainly bred laziness in Americans.
When Complaints will No Longer be met with such hostility?
The complaints will no longer be met with hostility when people cultivate a culture of purposive complaining in a civilized manner through proper channels. Authorities must devise some action plan to mitigate complaints when someone voices his complaint. This was the essay’s spirit that motivated people to speak up and voice their opinions.