The saying has been around for a long time: “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” A number of people seem to be angry on Facebook, lately. A group of women dumped on Ivanka Trump the other day for defending her father when she was Angela Merkel’s guest at the recent conference on women’s entrepreneurship. (Blog 5/5/17) I wondered at their vitriol. Since when did the sins of the father descend upon the child? Typing my question in the comments section of the thread encouraged more vitriol. Ivanka, folks said, was privileged, unprepared to serve as her father’s adviser and charged with the crime of manufacturing her line of clothing overseas – as most companies do for reasons beyond cheap labor. (Click)
Lashing out at someone else is a luxury. It means avoiding looking inward. It also empowers. A 2005 study by Donna Lerner and Dacher Kiltner showed the emotion leaves us feeling confident. “We’d rather be mad than sad.” (“Easy Chair,” by Rebecca Solnit, Harper’s, May 2017, pg. 4.) Unfortunately, anger tends to drive out Reason, which is why we speak of “blind” rage. When we feel righteous anger, we give ourselves permission to mindlessly attack those who don’t share our opinions. When Ann Coulter accepted an invitation to speak at the University of California at Berkley, she received multiple death threats. I despise her perspective, but death threats is righteousness gone amok. (Click)
Rebecca Solnit’s excellent article on anger (Ibid, pgs.4-8), makes a distinction between anger and outrage. Outrage transcends anger’s emotion because it rises from a deep understanding of injustice. “Black Lives Matter,” is an expression of outrage. So is the Women’s Liberation Movement, emerging after centuries when women were taught forgiveness was the correct response to abusive men. What they really learned was how to be powerless. The difference between anger and outrage is exemplified in the life of Nelson Mandela as Solnit points out. He “was as entitled to anger as anyone, nevertheless gave it up.” (Ibid pg. 8.) What he did not give up was his desire “to change the world around him.” (Ibid pg. 8.)
I agree with Solnit: “…anger is a response to insecurity.” With it we attempt to gain control over others and reassure ourselves. Anger specializes in insults, attacks, bullying. Unlike outrage, it has no deeper motive than to diminish someone else, leaving the perpetrator and the victim vanquished.