Grievance Nation

I was on a flight to San Francisco last week waiting for takeoff when the pilot announced a delay. The pilot explained the runway was backed up, and we waited, and then were told that the plane was ready to taxi, but first we needed to go and pick up some fuel. Next to me, a father with two children became enraged, venting at the flight attendant, "We couldn't have gotten the fuel before while we were waiting?” The flight attendant shrugged. It clearly wasn’t her fault.

Grievance is on the rise.  The question is, why? I asked Quora…

Skeptical Grouch wrote: “I think resentment builds up when the resentful person feels like they are being disrespected. They may have been hurt and spoken up about the hurt. However, the person who hurt them ignores their pain -- and continues the behavior that causes their disrespect/hurt, thus add[ing] to the hurt.”



Anonymous wrote: “Why are people always looking for something to complain about? Because they weren’t raised right, and their enabling parents likely gave them whatever the hell they wanted to shut their whining hole.”

But here’s a more analytical response. Several trends suggest that perceptions of grievance may be increasing in certain areas:

Social media and online platforms: The rise of social media and online platforms has made it easier for individuals and groups to express their grievances and mobilize support. This increased visibility can give the impression that grievances are more prevalent, as issues that might have gone unreported in the past are now widely shared and discussed.

Political polarization: In many countries, political polarization has intensified, with groups on different sides of the political spectrum often expressing grievances against each other or the system at large. This polarization can amplify feelings of injustice and unfair treatment.

Economic inequality: Economic factors, including inequality and perceptions of declining social mobility, can fuel grievances among those who feel left behind by economic changes. The impacts of globalization, automation, and changing labor markets have contributed to these perceptions in some regions.

Cultural and social shifts: Cultural and social shifts, including debates over identity, race, gender, and equality, can also lead to increased expressions of grievance from various groups feeling marginalized or unfairly treated.

Global events: Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have led to widespread social and economic disruption, exacerbating existing grievances and creating new ones, such as those related to health measures, economic hardship, and government responses.

And then, we arrive at the amplifier of all things grievance-related, the leader of the MAGA movement. Donald Trump’s campaign has been, from the outset, a cavalcade of grievance. From the “stolen” election to the media’s role as an “enemy of the people,” climate skepticism, and social media flame battles, Trump’s fundamental campaign claim is that you  -- the voter -- are being ripped off, and he’s on your side. Pick a grievance, any grievance. 

The danger of the rising tide of grievance is that it asks the aggrieved to take no responsibility for their unbridled anger and gives rise to unhappiness with no chance of resolution. If we find ourselves facing four more years of Trump, the grievance could metastasize into a country of hopeless, angry, armed citizens. And we can see where that ends.

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