The current climate has compelled me to rethink my approach to a fundamental emotion: anger. Previously, I’ve seen it through two lenses. The first lens positions anger as a political tool. The second lens positions anger as a manifestation of weakness.
ANGER AS A POLITICAL TOOL
Rory Miller knows about conflict, but more importantly he understands violence. In one of his books–Meditations on Violence, I think–he explains a continuum of how we exert our will upon one another in social situations. He cites four types of people; nice, manipulative, assertive and aggressive. There are tradeoffs and nuances which I won’t go into, but generally the nice are controlled by the manipulative, the manipulative are controlled by the assertive, and the assertive are kept in check by the aggressive.
Now think about anger and its effect… Most people are nice, some are manipulative, and a few are assertive. Not many are aggressive (at the civilisational scale, this is by design). So one of the simplest ways to control others is to manufacture a facade of anger. Any slightly evil person has to–if they hope to climb the ladders of society–be prepared to use anger, or at the least to confront it. It is a tactic, a useful one.
ANGER AS A WEAKNESS
This one is easier to parse. A Jedi falls to the dark side when he embraces his/her anger. Stoicism teaches anger is the necrotising of an un-satisfiable desire for something or other. Anger, in many contexts, is cited as nothing more than a manifestation of uncertainty, confusion, fear, weakness or depravity.
ANGER AS A MORAL IMPERATIVE
However, there is another alternative: anger as a moral imperative. There’s a reason Patrick Rothfuss writes of the “three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”
Moral anger is a totally different beast from anger-as-weakness or anger-as-political-tool. It’s range in time and space is long, not short; it doesn’t blaze so much as smoulder; like a glacier, it is slow to build yet nigh impossible to halt; it is the catalyst for revolution and the cause of civilisation-wide resets. And when I look around me now, I feel it. The world, as a collective, is fucking angry. And so am I, if I’m honest. Need I describe why?
Supposedly, Keynes said that “Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.” Likewise, the powerful and the influential have been getting by based on the fact that we can’t organise our anger quicker than they can organise and spew their lies. It’s been this way, I think, for decades, but with the clusterfuck of crises at our feet and on the horizon, it won’t remain that way.
The anger pooling in hearts and minds around the world–an anger that is justified–will not be denied much longer. It will seek, and it will find, an outlet. Like pressure building in a system of pipes, it could be deliberately bled. Those in control–or those who claim to be–could respond. They could release their desperate stranglehold, they could quit it with the lies and deceptions, they could share the gains and help mitigate the wholly unnecessary losses. But they won’t.
Consequence? The system, left unbled, will blow. People, sick of the pain and the suffering, will fight. People, sick of the pain and suffering, will die. There will be winners, there will be losers, but more importantly there will be no-one who remains untouched by the coming anger.