By Ad astra
I might have titled this piece ‘Rage’, but not wishing its thrust to be confused with Rage, the all-night music video program broadcast on the ABC on Friday nights and Saturdays, I have stuck with the less emotive word ‘anger’. You all know what ‘anger’ means.
It is with some trepidation that I write this piece. Like most ordinary people, I prefer a peaceful life, light on the emotive elements that it can throw at us. Yet, unavoidably, all of us live in a world redolent with anger. It’s everywhere. It seems sad that it is so.
Even a cursory glimpse back in time reminds us that anger has always been a striking feature of human interaction. Julius Sumner Miller would have asked: Why is it so?
In this attempt to explain the nature of anger, I won’t be assailing you with a heavy metaphysical treatise; instead I will point you towards longstanding features of this phenomenon among members of our species, homo sapiens
If you pushed me for a simple answer to the genesis of anger, I would target ‘selfishness’ as the prime cause. At the church I attended in my youth, the most frequent topic of the sermon was ‘selfishness’, which the preacher regarded as possibly the most egregious sin of all.
From the very beginning, we have focussed on our own needs. As babies we scream for milk when we’re thirsty. We cry when we’re uncomfortable with soiled nappies, when we have a bellyache, or when our bedding needs tidying. As we grow, we seek human attention, gentle soothing, and a warm embrace. We reveal that we are more than eating and excreting machines; we need human interaction, even love. And if we don’t get what we want, we become angry and ‘scream blue murder’.
Our needs seldom diminish. Instead, with every passing year we seem to need more. While there are generous souls who devote their lives to others, most focus on themselves, forever seeking what they need, and want. They learn how to put a gloss on what they want so as not to appear to be too selfish, too focussed on their own desires. The hide their self-centredness.
To visualise the magnitude of this, multiply it millions of times – across families, the community, the nation, and indeed the world in which we live.
Yet anger has its inevitable consequences. When people are angry they seek redress for the wrongs that have made them angry. Looking back in history we see this classically demonstrated at the time of the French Revolution during which there was widespread discontent with the monarchy which at that time controlled the economy. The poor economic policies of King Louis XVI resulted in crippling poverty among the masses. Yet he and his wife Marie Antoinette showed callous disregard for their plight. ‘Let them eat cake’ was her haughty response for which she eventually paid with her head on the guillotine. Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is the popular stage representation of this historic time.
We experience anger every day: when a rude person pushes us away to take the last seat on the bus, or edges into a queue, or grabs the last sausage at Bunnings. This variety of anger harms us. We feel the consequences. We feel ‘hot and bothered’.
Yet there are laudable angry responses. Those with a finely-tuned social conscience justifiably feel anger at injustice, unfairness and inequality. Homelessness, chronic unemployment, insecure work, uncongenial or dangerous work conditions, worker exploitation, pay theft, bullying, intimidation, and sexual harassment all deserve an angry response and corrective action. Here, anger is appropriate, indeed necessary.
To this sorry catalogue add flagrant corporate greed, executive self-interest, wilful exploitation of clients, even criminal behaviour, all perpetrated by the pillars of society that once we learned to trust, but now despise because of their culture of self-interest and the corruption that follows. Banks, financial advisers, stock brokers, corporate lawyers, lobbyists, narrow-interest advocates, and an array of strong-arm trade union leaders make up a motley collection of self-interested individuals and groups primarily out for themselves, all using client concern as a deceitful charade. They all make us angry. Domestic violence, child abuse, school bullying, paedophilia, elder neglect and exploitation, and now social media bullying, cyber abuse and crime all join the long list of offensive behaviours that cause pain, distress, loneliness, and anger.
So let’s give anger its just due. Those of us who write political pieces do so because we are angry. Angry at the unfair deal life inflicts on so many, angry at the indifference to their plight that society and so many politicians exhibit, angry at their reluctance to address these needs, angry at their self-centred preoccupation with their own political needs and wants ahead of the needs of those who interests they are elected to represent.
We see anger as the driver of our actions. Expect us to be angry.
Long live anger.
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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14 commentsLogin here Register here
anger is like holding onto a hot coal and expecting your enemy’s hand to burn,
these days I express my “anger” as sadness, disappointment and bewilderment,
except when one mentions politics…. then my hand starts to burn
I agree pierre, I see no point in expressing anger even though politics seems to be designed to annoy us all to react. I prefer peace. Ad astra, a thoughtful article but are you sure about having anger as a ‘driver’ of your actions? Sounds a bit unconscious to my simple mind.
Whenever I see anyone, including me, in a self-aggrandizing angry mood I now wonder what gives, what triggered that? That kind of reflection didn’t used to happen. Today if someone cuts me off in traffic – who cares? I’ll say something if a crash happens but even then I can skip anger. Otherwise I send out a thought such as ‘slow down’ or ‘careful’ or ‘idiot’.
I feel sorry for those who don’t understand the basics of anger yet. Like children in adult bodies they rage through life with an unconscious anger that shortens their life, their own heart the first casualty of rage projected.
I feel frustration rather than anger. We know what we should be doing. Politicians debate and delay and derail.
Me, I feel utter despair.
Anger is an energy – harness it…
“The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.” – Gustave Flaubert
I love that, Kaye.
It’s true. Sometimes I feel the stir of challenge but I just can’t crack the ceiling that’s in the way. But I won’t give up. Just biding my time.
You have for many years provided a safe place for people to discuss politics and ideas. I understand that you feel you want to do more, that you have personal aspirations/goals, but don’t underestimate your past and current contribution to political awareness in this country.
Thank you for your thoughtful responses.
Some of you dislike ‘anger’ as the descriptor of the emotion that propels us toward corrective action. You have suggested alternatives.
There seems to be agreement though that whatever words we prefer, there is a need for those that demand we do something about injustice, indifference, self-centredness, and all the other deplorable behaviour we see, day after day, from politicians and public figures, from whom we deserve to expect exemplary behaviour.
Words count. We need to arm ourselves with those that are able to bring about positive change, and use them wisely.
Thank you, Kaye. You’ve given me a real lift just when I needed it.
About ten years ago – and when looking for a career change – I scored a job interview at an Aboriginal unit of a different department. I thought I might have a chance: a BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration, a BA (Honours) in Aboriginal Studies, and six years at ATSIC including three years working with remote Aboriginal communities, plus a bit of other stuff in various departments.
I was asked a question: “What do you want to achieve for Aboriginal people?”
I answered: “If all my studies, work and devotion leads to making life better for just one Aboriginal person I’ll feel I have achieved at least something.”
He fired back: “Why just one?”
I didn’t get the job, but the interview was a game-changer.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert Kennedy
I’m sorry to read of your despair. For years you have provided us with a website where we can express views, comment on political issues, and join in a respectful dialogue with colleagues. It is valued by all those who visit here; the extent of the comments that readers make signifies its value to them.
Please continue, confident of the respect in which you and your website is held by so many.
Having been in the political blogsite business since 2008, I’m sure that what we write has the power to influence political behaviour. It was Al Gore who, many years ago, first drew attention to the emerging potency off political websites. Politicians and their staffers do read them and modify their actions accordingly. The recent Craig Kelly saga exemplifies this.
We need AIMN, we need you. Please continue. What you do does count.
Thank you, Ad Astra. You are so kind. Neither myself or The AIMN won’t be going away. I’m just recharging my batteries. I can feel that they’re almost done.
Dead right, Pierre.
Anger (derives of fear)…put a “D” in front of it.
Sadly, these days watching the world progress and process, it is not usually a laughing matter. Sometimes you laugh to not cry.