Beyond Brushstrokes

One’s perspective and attitude determines the way things appear. A glass of water is either half-full or half-empty. The donut is a pastry with a hole. The pessimist looks at the hole instead of the whole sweet treat. On another level, a persistent problem could be a situation — according to the optimist. It can be solved. It’s matter of perception.

The pessimist thrives on complaints — about everything. He sees what is wrong with others except himself.

In the extreme sense, a negative person would “…cut his nose to spite his face.” He would look for flaws in a friend and sabotage the relationship by being cold, closed, or critical. Or nitpick over small imperfections instead of seeing, appreciating, or accepting the complete person or object. He misses the values and sees the shadows.

The underlying problems could be a deep-seated insecurity masked by a superior self-righteous attitude, anger at the world or an exaggerated persecution complex. The negative individual lashes out at others, and would rather bring down everyone with him.

Misery loves company.

William Safire aptly describes pessimists as a “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

Let us observe a few composite characters who walk around with gray clouds hovering above them. In the service, travel, and hospitality industries, they stand out as the complaining customer, passenger, or guest.

The very fastidious person is uptight and walks around with a perpetual frown — probably caused by a chip (or a block) on his shoulder.

At a fine dining restaurant, the demanding connoisseur complains about the little, fine details of a gourmet meal. The tiny pale speck on a white mantle, the less-than-perfect slice of beef, the not-so warm baguette, a misshapen curl of butter, the tepid water, the insipid wine, and the barely visible marks of droplets on the silver cutlery and porcelain. There are valid things that are worth reporting such as undercooked food, too much salt in the soup, and the lipstick stain (of a previous guest) on the goblet, the draft of the air conditioner, the stray piece of plastic in the vegetables, and the slow service.

Even when the meal is divine and the ambience perfect, he finds something wrong — imaginary or real. To the despair of the exasperated maître d’ and the frustrated chef and the harassed waiters.

The boorish traveler gripes about the airplane — from the miserable food to the clogged air vents, narrow seats that don’t recline, itchy blankets, dim lights, broken arm rests, leaking ceiling, and the inflight entertainment. Worse, he looks for a reason to sue and collect from the airline for being upgraded against his will, for being bumped off, for lost or delayed luggage.

Of course, legitimate complains should always be considered and used to improve the service in the classes. There are proper ways of saying and doing things without being brash, abrasive, or offensive. A letter would be appropriate so that it is on record. Power trips (wielding power and name-dropping) are among the bad reactions of the VIP passengers. A person in a government position should not take undue advantage of others.

However, some querulous people like to gripe for the sake of griping. Sour grapes are bitchy people who crave attention.

Nothing ever fits. Nothing tastes right. Nothing feels good.

KSP — Kulang sa pansin. The Pinoy phrase aptly describes the attention seeker.

Disapproval is expressed in different forms — personal, public, verbal, nonverbal. There are variations of disapproval.

Constructive criticism serves a purpose. It creates public awareness about particular issues that need correction and how these can be rectified.

Media — print, TV and radio — have scathing editorials, sharp commentaries, acerbic opinion pieces and caricatures, and withering reviews. Most articles have valid concerns that enlighten the readers and audience.

Blind items and white papers of anonymous origin have malice. Rumors are crafted to smear reputations, damage or destabilize institutions. Innocent people get hurt.

Social media has both positive and negative sides. It may be uncontrollable, especially when trolls spread fake news that can destroy reputations and create havoc.

The gullible can easily believe tall tales, half-truths, and nasty gossip. The discerning reader sees through the innuendos.

People have used the popular methods of protest movements and spontaneous rallies to complain about urgent burning issues. Among them, justice and fairness, poverty alleviation, politics. Strikes have been held to protest oil price increases, to demand better wages.

The cause is a national issue. The forum is public — in front of the Senate or the House of Representatives. There are prayer rallies, as well.

However, in a protest rally, anything goes. Freedom of expression is being threatened. The guardians of the people have doused students and clerics in a prayerful crowd with water canons or disperse them with tear gas. All in a day’s work. They justify the methods with phrases such as “For their own safety” or “for keeping the peace.” The local authorities resort to blaming others — except themselves.

In a free society people can voice their opinions about everything. Using the proper forum, citizens can demand positive change, persuade and convince the leaders to act.

The only hitch in our system is the prevalent destructive attitude of the crab. The shadow of the crab looms larger than we would care to admit.

People should shed the self-centeredness, indifference, myopia and negativism that afflict society and the world.

It is time to do positive things to raise our consciousness as a people.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.