Illegitimus non carborundum est (AND A CONTEST)


If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain. –Maya Angelou

I hate that quotation. Absolutely loathe it, right up there with the “hang in there” cheesy kitten from the 1980s.1

I hate every last “inspirational” quote that preaches acceptance.


Every last one of them – usually spotted plastered on a middle manager’s office wall – is a blatant “shut up” to every employee there. It’s the threat of “Be glad you have a job.” It’s the stuff that points out exactly how right Marx was.

And that leads us to a better inspirational quote:

In order to be walked on, you have to be lying down. – Brian Weir

Whoops – forgot to post the contest bit. Next post. My bad.

[Edit: Added in the last two words that really triggered this reaction.]

1 It’s possible that the “attitude change” mentioned is to one of resistance. Because I respect her, I hope that’s how it was meant… but it’s definitely not how it’s being represented.

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  1. December 10, 2010

    I have always liked that quote for pretty much the reason you hate it.

    I never thought it to be about acceptance. I thought it was more about being upright(as in not lying down) and proactive about life. The kind of change your attitude that takes the crap life gives us and uses it as fertilizer. Not just accepting the crap, but dealing with it.

    I have been seeing it a lot as of late, but not on office walls, but on Tree hugging, crystal rubbing, feminist free your mind type stuff. There it is more of a blatant "speak up and join us in being happy lesbians."

    Sometimes the important thing is where you are standing. I have intentionally chosen to work in places that do not have middle managers, so I do not have to deal with them. The trade off is that I do not make as much money.

    I do agree about the cheesy kitten though, that one is dreadful.

  2. December 10, 2010

    I think you're right; the context matters.

    "Be thankful you have a job" means something very different at the Thanksgiving table than it does being uttered by your boss when you're pointing out unfair business practices. 🙂

  3. December 14, 2010

    I just looked at the quote again (on the corkboard) and saw what really triggered my reaction – the words "don't complain" at the end. I can't find a definitive source – the quotation is listed both with an without "don't complain".

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