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Monday, February 26, 2007

Culture #8: The Universality of Whining About The Weather

It has just been proven! We are all connected in harmony and common bond because I have discovered at least one truly universal trait common to every human and culture on the planet: we all whine and complain about the weather.

That’s right, we all think we are tough, we like to pretend, but deep down, most of us are soft, softer than we like to believe. Canadians are known (or self-imaged) to be able to handle the cold. And to some degree, that is of course true. There is some physical and psychological adaptation. We can and will tolerate eyeball hurting chill and bitter, biting wind...but only if we have to. And more importantly, that does not stop us from complaining about it frequently and loudly.

Same as with India. The myth is broken. Oh sure, they will adjust to 45 degrees C in the shade. They will toil in it. They will tolerate it. But India, like Canada has a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and despite the occasional debate on politics, economics or inequities, they mostly use that freedom on a day-to-day level, like we all do, to bitch about the weather (and pop stars, naturally). Last week was the first real jump in temperature and humidity here, back up to sticky and draining heat and a portent of the rapidly approaching summer swelter. And I was amazed to find my colleagues were the first to mention how hot it was getting, how uncomfortable, how miserable a portent it was. I kept thinking, “aren’t you used to this though?” Ah, but humans have fickle short memories and although it might have been as hot last year, bodies and minds forget and resent being reminded.

I think it is worse with city dwellers too. We’ve all gotten used to our central heat and our aircon. We’ve gotten used to being able to turn the weather off when we don’t like it and so complain when we’re forced to confront it by (gasp!) going outside to get lunch or not having an a/c car waiting running at the foot of the door.

Forget the GDP or the Human Development Index. For a clear measure of a region’s development progress, we should start tracking the WWI, the Weather Whininess Index.

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