I do know that complaining isn't new. And I haven't been fretting in recent years over the majority of the complaints that were coming my way, which tended to be like these:
"I don't have a DISHwasher, I have to wash my dishes by HAND!"
"We only have two BATHrooms, and I just don't know what to DO!"
"I can't decide WHERE to go for my vacation, and it's driving me NUTS!"
"I have a six-month-old BABY and I have to write a TERM paper!"
"No matter WHAT I do, I CANNOT get my hair the color I want it!"
"It's not bad enough that I have to write a paper, my prof says it has to have a BIBLIOGraphy!"
And so on. All in Peel Me A Grape Mode, as I myself perceive the world. I respond to these as politely as I can manage [as in "It's not easy figuring out how to handle things; I'm sorry to hear that you're having a hard time."].
But what I'm hearing now isn't like that. And the complaints I'm hearing now aren't just coming from the two sets of complainers I used to hear from most often -- youngsters, and a few older people who'd never faced a real problem in their entire lives. The feeling I get from the complaints I'm hearing now, which are coming from people of all ages, is that the surface complaint -- which may in fact strike me as trivial -- isn't the real message, and that it wouldn't help if the person had a solution for that complaint; the hopelessness wouldn't go away.
You're right -- some of that comes from the "No matter how much you have, it's never enough if somebody else has more" message our culture constantly trumpets at everybody. Some of it comes from the "What you are as a human being depends on how many toys you have and how famous you are" message. Some of it comes from the "You have to WIN, no matter what" message. Some of it, I suspect, comes from people being over-medicated and medicated inappropriately. Sure. And some of it comes from the fact that -- unlike the situation in the Olden Days -- television and the Internet guarantee that we know about every last awful thing that's going on almost immediately. There was a time when it might be months before you knew that hundreds of thousands had died horribly somewhere in a wicked war, or a plague, or an earthquake; now we know while the ground's still shaking. But still .... there seems to me to be something deeper, and something new.
Those of you who mention betrayal are making an important point, I think. The emotional message that I'm hearing behind the surface complaints is one of horror at being betrayed. I'm hearing a total loss of trust. And when I hear it face to face instead of reading it in written words, I'm also stunned by what I see. By the blankness in the eyes. By the body language that seems to me to indicate that the person is just waiting for the next blow to fall, without any idea that perhaps there won't be another one. It seems to me, even when I perceive it as out of all proportion to the situation -- to be absolutely genuine. Not faked, genuine.