Complaining: That's another pet peeve.
The Culture-watchers at 2Blowhards posted one possible unifying thread in "America's embrace of adolescent values." I would have missed this post from 2004 had a recent entry not made reference to it, attempting in that case to explain the rating system for American cinema as the result of an adolescent nation. Talk about your unified theories!
To offer one possible summation, "Michael" at 2Blowhards suspects that our market-driven society has seized upon the naturally passing fancies of young people in order to sell them new merchandise, again and again; and that this scheme is so effective an economic engine we have encouraged everyone to think (and act, and buy) like teenagers.
"Quick media-world fact: ad people pursue kids and youngsters because young people can be hoodwinked and pickpocketed, er, influenced. They're buying their first cars and sofas, they're vain and insecure, and they're trying to attract mates. So they spend money on silly products, on clothes, on fashion, and on style. (Older people aren't so open to being affected by ads.) Well, how great it would be for business if the entire population could be kept in a state of perpetual anxiety, yearning, and dissatisfaction -- in a state of teenagehood?
"So, in a way, technological developments, the ever-expanding media, the opening-up of markets, liberal/PC educations and ideology, and pop culture aren't in conflict. They're all part of the same picture, and they all combine to promote adolescent values. The eternal-kids these forces help create are, essentially, effective and convenient cannon fodder for today's multicultural, media-centric, digitally-based commercial world. "
Maybe it's a stretch, but it appeals to my Wendell Berry-addled mind. At the center of Berry's polemic is the post-WWII turn of American thinking away from community production and consumption, and toward mass production and mass marketing. It just happens that most of the things we love here (hunting, growing, walking in the woods, working animals, reading and writing) were things common and useful to the older world, That Distant Land.