A Complaint against USI

Brian Beale

Which of the following have you spent the most time discussing? 1) The rust on the new cone 2) Injustices you have suffered at the hand of a professor 3) How dumb a class is 4) How much better another college is than USI 5) How USI manages to offer a good and improving education to its students at the lowest tuition of any school in the four states surrounding it.

I can’t recall a particular time when I mentioned that fifth one, but I am very familiar with the prior four.

These four topics and ones similar to them serve as my icebreakers and conversation carriers. They connect me to other students here at USI. I may not agree with your political stance or religious beliefs (the important stuff), but I know I can find some common ground grievances regarding the university (or so and so, the weather, new trends, etc.).

So I have to pose the question: why is complaint our conversational default?

On a simplistically logical scale, a group should complain in proportion to the amount of injustices it faces. But we are far from simplistically logical. We at USI experience a higher level of justice than most of the world. We are primarily free to say anything we want without fear of governmental persecution; we are not under a tyrannical, genocidal regime; and though we are “poor” college students, we have at the very least enough to meet our basic human needs.

Yet I can’t imagine that the most mistreated North Korean citizen could practice complaint and dissatisfaction more than I do, without having a vocation in the field. This state of affairs gives way to two interesting observations: First, we as a nation (and thus a campus) are sorely wrong about the value of material possessions. Though we cover it by talking about some vague moral ideal (everybody seems to recognize the fervent or selfish acquisition of things as a vice), in practice we just want money and stuff.

Think about your major: if you’re a freshman, you’ve probably chosen a “dream” major; if you’re a sophomore, you’ve lost your zeal for major number one and are checking your options; and if you’re a junior or senior, you’re studying what will make you the most money when you graduate (or maybe whatever major you have the most credits in). It’s clear that having stuff is not the main catalyst of satisfaction, because we have most of the world’s stuff but the least of its satisfaction.

Second, you will never be satisfied with stuff. But, you argue, stuff will get me more comfort, meeting my physiological needs and thus biologically making me happier. Yes, but like any drug, personal comfort must be indefinitely augmented over time, which eventually leads to a limit in which comfort is hardly possible at all. But, you reply, more money means more friends, and because humans are primarily social creatures, money will consequently make me happier. According to that logic, the happiest people in the world should be in Hollywood.