Commandments require careful interpretation—by those who have completed many years of serious study—so that the masses can grasp their content. The following offers a close examination of the second commandment from a self-described expert in the field of interpretation:
II. Thou shalt not whine and complain when some people’s crap turns out to be nicer than yours.
Although many facilely reduce this command to mean “don’t complain,” the commandment’s true meaning is much more complex. It prohibits specific behaviors that would diminish or harm good will within the community of woot! customers. It assumes, rather than proscribes, the acts of comparison and discussion. The commands do not merely anticipate this sort of reflection but positively endorse it. Note the content of the third commandment, which states, “Thou shalt take a moment to consider whether you might be better off just not buying this crap.” Such consideration is as necessary at the point of purchase as it is following the receipt of one’s crap. The third commandment places no temporal limits on this sort of evaluation, suggesting the value of continual reflection.
An examination of the precise terminology used in the command will aid understanding. According to Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate dictionary, the verb “complain” can mean 1) to express grief, pain, or discontent, or 2) to make a formal accusation or charge. The verbal form of “whine” associates complaining with a particular tone—that of a “high-pitched plaintive or distressed cry.” Thus, tonality and content are key to understanding the prohibition. To be precise, the second commandment bans the “high-pitched” or “whiney” expression of grief, discontent, or charges of “unfairness” in one, and only one, context or condition: when another person’s crap appears better than one’s own.
Thus, the second commandment grants the human capacity to evaluate and assess the worth of goods as well as the urge to communicate. Most humans are, by nature, communicators. (This holds true despite reports that communicative abilities are more or less differentiated according to gender.) Therefore, it is not against the command merely to notice or comment upon the apparent value of one’s own or another’s crap. It prohibits such language only when it takes on the tone of complaint and whining and is expressed via reference to another person’s better crap. Note, as well, that a careful reading of the command does not prohibit whining and complaining when one compares one’s own crap from present and previous purchases! Nor does the command prohibit lamenting the quality of one’s own crap when it is uttered without reference to another’s crap.
The words of the second commandment endorse the proper spirit whereby comparison and communication occur. The ultimate goal of the commandment is to forestall jealousy within the woot! customer base. The successful keeping of this commandment is evidenced in genuine expressions of congratulation to those whose crap is better than one’s own and in refraining from leveling complaints in a whiney tone that one’s crap pales in comparison to another’s. So, as should be apparent from this excursus, the limitations imposed by the commandment are actually quite narrow, conditional, and contextual in nature. The command is not intended for blanket application but is circumscribed by attention to tonality, the context of complaint-making, and the relationship of one’s statement to the statements of a better-endowed crap recipient.