Sara Ahmed’s book “Complaint!”’s first chapter “Mind the Gap! Policies, Procedures, and Other Nonperformatives” relies and focuses in the concerns Ahmed has encountered with institutional processes while making a complaint. At the same time the author points out the position in which the complainers see themselves involved in during this processes, and how tedious they are, because at the end it just seems that systems and institutions create and establish procedures for anything but complaining. Parallel, some testimonies of failed complaints are described to enrich the discussion on how policies do not benefit those who they should benefit.
While reading the first chapter of “Complaint!”, and punctually having the chance to get to know various stories from different people and complaints they have made in past opportunities, I would just kept thinking on the times I have made complaints, also the times there was a reason no matter how small to make a complaint and I doubted making it, or even the multiple times I have bypassed the chance to make a complaint just because of my non-intentional ignorance.
I also feel like sometimes the “strategic inefficiency” (Ahmed 2021, p. 28) is so evident, and clear, and irrefutable that we tend to avoid the burden of starting a process which’s journey does not promise any benefit or which’s end won’t come any easy.
As an immigrant-student I can say that this experience will mostly lead to situations in which one can get lost easily between mountains of papers and tons of extended words, that at the end blurres the exquisiteness of getting into a new culture and challenging itself into the wildness of being valued, while coming from a country which historically has be minoritized.
Even when my experience with bureaucracy in Germany (compared to other immigrants’ I know), can be categorised from 1 to 5 being 5 good and 1 bad as a 5, I can say firsthand that it is overwhelming. To this, let’s add that in any personal/bureaucratic/administrative process communication is the basis, and if one of the parties has difficulty with the language, for example, that prevails in that situation, the ball is now in the opponent’s court. Therefore when language is a barrier and you find yourself in a vulnerable position, it would be very audacious of me to make a complaint. Right?
Am i allowed to complain if I am not German? Do I have the same rights? And if so, am i allowed to make it with my broken German? Are they even going to understand me?
Such questions cross the minds of many of us, so I pretty much identify myself with the situations Ahmed described in this opportunity. A complaint is a messy process, not just because the ending will always seem unreachable, but also because –“Even if you can use a policy as evidence to support a complaint, it does not guarantee you will succeed.” – (Ahmed 2021, p. 43)
Complaints compromise rights and legal processes, but also empathy and emotions in my point of view. “Complaints are personal as well as institutional.” – (Ahmed 2021, p. 38).
As appears in page 48 “You swallow it”. Those single three words describe the need to end something and not even give it a chance to be digested. Often we see injustices and we just have to get along with them, how? Easy. By swallowing them. But when you swallow you don’t disintegrate each part, nutrient, benefit of it. You take the life out of it. And that is mostly how it feels to be part of a minority in such a powerful environment. It just takes the life out of you.
As a future visual communicator I identify the importance to show emotions and experiences in a more graphic way when language and culture are obstacles. For this purpose, I have decided to accompany this reflection and the feeling left by reading the first chapter “Mind the Gap! Policies, Procedures, and Other Nonperformatives” with two photographic representations of how the process to make a complaint doesn’t looks but feels like.