a node at the edge  

July 08, 2002
SensoryTwo Angry People

Mike Golby is a man in his 40's, Catholic, married with kids, who lives in South Africa. I'm a woman in my 40's, non-religious, divorced, with no kids, living in the US. Outside of our age and the fact that we weblog, we two also share one other thing in common: we're angry people.

Mike continues the discussion about anger from this weekend, and in particular, the responses to it:

    Why did people automatically equate anger, i.e. 'intense dissatisfaction' with rage, i.e. 'violent anger', as defined by the OED? Why are so many people who seek a fuller, more productive life so brittle, thin-skinned, and reactionary?

Good question, Mike. It does seem that the more we as a society seek to eliminate anger, the more acts of unreasoning rage occur. In the last few decades, where once anger was considered an emotion not unlike any other, now it's considered taboo. And in that same time frame, where once a worker killing a boss would be front page news for weeks, now it's becoming commonplace.

And like you, Mike, I puzzle at the extreme reaction to the Hesham Mohamed Hadayet shooting. An entire airport security infrastructure is changing based on one person's actions; we see terrorist plots and government cover-up all based on a shooting that, from all indications, is nothing more than an example of a person going beserk.

In fact, Hadayet doesn't seem that different from Benjamin Smith a white supremacist who went on a racist killing spree in Illinois and Indiana. Yet Smith wasn't called "terrorist", and we haven't added to the police that exist on every corner in the country. Nor is Indiana University an armed camp - I know, my brother teaches there.

Making Hadayet into a terrorist solely because it suits certain agendas makes me angry. I am angry.

What the hell has happened to my country in that anger, in any form, is 'bad', but Bush and Ashcroft detaining a man without giving him due rights under law - under law - is acceptable?

What the hell has happened to my country that people support a president based solely on his 'War on Terror' without regard to any other of his actions and lack thereof?

What the hell has happened to my country that people get incensed because the Pledge of Allegience is declared unconstitutional based on the words 'under God'? To make matters worse, these same people then have the audacity to say that this country was created on a platform of Christianity, and we should all accept this - my country was never based on the principles of separation of Church and State.

This really pisses me off.

How far will we go in selling our rights, our sense of decency and humanity, our membership in the world, our very souls, just to call ourselves safe?

Mike is an angry person. His anger speaks out every time he writes about injustice. Anger threads throughout his words, and forms a platform for his writing.

And we need more angry people, not less.

Update Make that three angry people.

Posted by Bb at July 08, 2002 01:15 PM


What does your bro teach, Bb? Anything I might have taken ten years ago?

Posted by: Dorothea Salo on July 8, 2002 01:53 PM

He heads up the special ed early childhood development program at Indie U. One very smart cookie and pretty terrific brother (though we drive each other nuts at times)

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on July 8, 2002 02:09 PM

Now, not to be confusing, I'm the Dave that completely disagrees with your rewrite of the Pledge (please do not call it Oath) of Allegience. I also have refrained from commenting at all on this anger issue until now. And I have NO ideas who all these other Daves are!!! :-)

I commented at (excessive) length on Dave Rogers weblog. To put it in 2 sentances:

Anger is a great catalyst for change, but when you need to accomplish communication and compromise it leaves alot to be desired. If you _use_ anger and _control_ anger - not necessarily eliminate it - it can also be quite constructive.

It's been very enlightening to read through all this. Seems like there are many definitions of anger. Some, like mine, do not necessarily equate to something negative.

But Shelley, early in this post you speak of 'we as a society seek to eliminate anger'. Are you suggesting that we should not? Society is order. The opposite of society is chaos - I think. Venting for the sake of venting... expressing your emotions with no regard for the consequences... doesn't sound like something we should be neutral about. If the opposite of eliminating anger is anarchy, then I most definitely say we should at least try to control our anger.

You also pose some great questions. Let me ask you something. As you wrote those 3 paragraphs that begin with 'what the hell'... were you angry? Were you expressing your anger? Was said anger under control? I may not agree with you on that last one about the Pledge, but I certainly can appreciate how you expressed yourself. If you answered yes to my 3 questions I'd have to say you just gave an example of what I call constructive anger.

As for the LAX shooting last week, this seems to be a great example of anger resulting from fear. Or at least a reaction stemming from fear.

Great topic!

Posted by: Dave on July 8, 2002 02:10 PM

Dave - just edited this for clarity as you posted your comment, and excellent point on society and choas. Perhaps we as a 'society' should be thinking more as we as a 'community'.

In the clarification, I did mention that yes, I am angry. And it is the anger that burns to change, not to destroy. To me, it is constructive anger. Good anger.

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on July 8, 2002 02:21 PM

Are you a red-head?

Posted by: Shirl on July 8, 2002 03:06 PM

What about Mike Sanders and Meryl Yourish?

They have alot of anger as well. And just like you two - plenty of good reasons behind it.

I read all four of yas.

Posted by: Karl on July 8, 2002 03:27 PM

Karl, I don't agree with Meryl and Mike - most of the time - but I do admire their energy and dedication to their beliefs. If I don't read them (though I do still, sometimes) it's not because of their 'anger' - it's because I disagree vehemently with the direction their anger is taking them.

And Shirl - confession time. I've actually had Celtic silver/white hair since I was a teenager until I got a little tired of it and wanted a change recently. So now I'm a light brownish red - to go with the green eyes and freckles.

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on July 8, 2002 03:37 PM

mmmm redheads ;)

Posted by: ruzz on July 8, 2002 04:21 PM

You dyed platinum blonde hair? What are you, nuts?

The airport thing makes me ever so glad not to be business-traveling any more. People at the gates get shot up, and the solution is more guns? Yeah, okay. Sounds like a way to get a lot more people shot to me.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo on July 8, 2002 05:18 PM

Why is anger equated with chaos? It seems to me that people are confusing disagreement with disorder. Anger can be quite structured and intricately precise. Equating anger with chaos exposes a fundamental lack of understanding of one or both concepts.

Anger is a natural human emotion. Literature is replete with beautiful examples of anger as a powerful force for change. I believe that our passivated society is so intent on minimizing all friction and eliminating any real emotion in an attempt to become a pure spectator society that we are at risk of losing our humanity. If we can't be angry, how can we know joy?

As Patrick Jones said "There is eloquence in screaming."

Posted by: rev_matt on July 8, 2002 07:18 PM

uh... you all need to listen to a little metal, rap and punk. you want anger?

Posted by: Karl on July 8, 2002 08:55 PM

Ah, but these days, that's clever marketing posing as anger, rarely if ever the real thing. Packaging of adolescent angst. Co-optation and regurgitation of real emotion, for dollars.

Makes me angry.


Posted by: stavrosthewonderchicken on July 8, 2002 09:20 PM

Bodies fill the fields I see, hungry heroes end
No one to play soldier now, no one to pretend
running blind through killing fields, bred to kill them all
Victim of what said should be
a servant `til I fall

Soldier boy, made of clay
now an empty shell
twenty one, only son
but he served us well
Bred to kill, not to care
just do as we say
finished here, Greeting Death
he's yours to take away

Back to the front
you will do what I say, when I say
Back to the front
you will die when I say, you must die
Back to the front
you coward
you servant
you blindman
[End Chorus]

Barking of machinegun fire, does nothing to me now
sounding of the clock that ticks, get used to it somehow
More a man, more stripes you bare, glory seeker trends
bodies fill the fields I see
the slaughter never ends


Why, Am I dying?
Kill, have no fear
Lie, live off lying
Hell, Hell is here

I was born for dying

Life planned out before my birth, nothing could I say
had no chance to see myself, moulded day by day
Looking back I realize, nothing have I done
left to die with only friend
Alone I clench my gun


Back to the front.


But of course.... most kids are idiots as you older folk tell them.

Posted by: Karl on July 8, 2002 09:28 PM

rev_matt: I think you misunderstood me. I reread my earlier comment and I'm not sure I can be much clearer, but I'll try. I certainly didn't mean to imply - and certainly never directly claimed - the anger equates to chaos.

First off, I _did_ imply - and in fact directly claimed - that anger can be constructive. Most ddefinitely there is agreement there. If you read my comments on Dave Rogers site I explained this using some of the same words as you... trying to say exactly what you have. When a parent displays premeditated anger to a child with the goal of properly enforcing discipline, well, it _is_ precise and structured and may well be construed as constructive. I also spoke of ying and yang and of the human nature as you have.

Rather, I was responding to Shelley's comments about how our society works to eliminate anger - which I consider a most worthy cause. I never meant to even hint that anger results or equates to chaos.

I merely used the word chaos as a possible antithesis to society. Many people define a society by it's laws and mores (sic?). Many also define the term society as how a culture behaves together, how it brings 'order' where none had existed previously. And it's that word - order - which is many times the antithesis of 'chaos'.

Now, if you define a successful societty as one where people have freedom, have self-rule and work together to achieve something more than the sum of it's parts... many people also consider compromise to be not only necessary but probably one of the primary elements critical to the survival of a society.

When one looks at the best forms or methods which people form these compromises... THAT is where anger is not usually a good facilitator. It IS an extremely good catalyst, but anger usually AT LEAST needs to be brought under control - if not even become muted - to achieve the respectful communication needed for compromise.

So, if one believes this (which I do) then my earlier statement can also be believed.... that venting for the sake of venting, that expressing your emotions without regard to the consequences (or in other words, uncontrolled anger or rage) is more likely to bring about a breakdown in communication and therefore no compromise. That without compromise you end up with anarchy or chaos. And if I have a black/white choice of either (a) seeking to eliminate anger or (b) accepting the antithesis of society which may be chaos/anarchy I'll definitely strive for the former over the latter.

I hope that more clearly states what I was trying to say earlier.

PS: [tongue in cheek] Of course, if I wanted to display a clear example of 'a fundamental understanding' of anger (as you suggest), I might ignore the consequences and fail to communicate and say TO HELL WITH YOU M*****F*CK** and ram my words very disrespectfully down your throat in reaction! LOL... and that would also be a good example of something else you implied - very unstructured and imprecise anger and how poorly it is an agent of change! [end of tongue in cheek]


Posted by: Dave on July 8, 2002 09:58 PM

i should add that that you're right stavos - there is alot of commercial crap. but then again, i really don't find that anything new.

Posted by: Karl on July 8, 2002 10:08 PM

Sorry Dave, that wasn't directed at you specifically, it was directed at the general tone of public discourse in which anger is frowned upon and the emergence of the nanny society. I do think you make good points. I agree that anger must be tempered with logic in order to be productive. Of course, sometimes it feels good to just rant and rave to no purpose ;)

Posted by: rev_matt on July 9, 2002 04:53 AM

No problem! Since I was the only one to have used the word chaos I assumed you might be replying to my comments. And since I do see situations where anger can be constructive I wanted to make myself clearer!

And damn straight rev_matt... I certainly have been known to howl at the moon (or more likely my PC while developing) and it sure does feel good!

Posted by: Dave on July 9, 2002 06:02 AM

Okay, just a few comments and I'll leave it at that. Lots more at my site.

1. Anger is normal. So is getting the flu. Something being "normal" is no measure of its value or utility.

2. To those of you who fear a "nanny" society, I'm at a loss to see the evidence in the lack of anger and presence of passivity. If anything, I perceive increasing levels of anger throughout society, none of which seem to be leading to positive outcomes. There may be some basis for fearing a "nanny" society based on efforts to eliminate all health risks, but I see no serious effort underway to reduce levels of anger.

3. Of all the virtues each of you ascribe to anger, none of them requires it. It seems to me to be rather irrational to wish to experience the negative physiological, emotional and psychological affects of anger in order to motivate oneself to take an appropriate action.

4. There does seem to be some disconnect between what we variously conceive of as anger. I don't include things like irritation, annoyance or impatience although they likely have their origins in the same neurological processes. To me, anger begins when you begin to experience significant phsysiological effects, such as increased heart rate, rise in blood pressure and a significant release in stress hormones. I used to have a throbbing vein in my left temple. Visible indicator to folks that said, "Stay clear!"

This doesn't have to manifest itself as a raving lunatic, though it too often does. Sometimes a person experiencing this is able to "control" it, in that they inhibit themselves from doing something destructive to others, but they are assuredly doing something destructive to themselves by subjecting their body to these fight or flight responses.

Finally, it seems, to me as though many of you view anger as some means to get someone to pay attention. Pay attention to me, Mr. President! I'm angry! Look at what you've done, Attorney General Ashcroft, you've made me mad! That certainly doesn't work.

Yes, the anger is normal, just like the flu. Get it to pass, and then you can act on the issue that inspired the fear in you, and you can do so much more effectively than by making displays of raw emotion.

Look, this is just my experience and my perception and why I'm unpersuaded by the virtues ascribed to anger, or, now, the fears of society being made progressively more "passive." It may be passive with regard to the issues you feel passionately about, but it is definitely not passive if you look at the incidence of child abuse, spouse abuse, murder, road rage, racism, sexism, and many other social ills which can be laid at the feet of irrational fear and anger.

If we want to empower people, we can begin by empowering them over themselves, so that they understand the process that takes place inside them when they get angry. If they can widen the space between stimulus and response, they can maximize the only power they have, which is the power to make a choice. Anger impairs that power. Physiological anger actually makes fewer resources available to the brain to make cognitive choices. It's dumping all its resources to the parts that control the body and the senses so it can fight or flee.

In a civilization, we need to maximize our cognitive resources to make responsible choices. We see the power of anger in the choices terrorists make.

Okay, I've gone on too long. We each walk our own path. I merely suggest that you might wish to consider that there might be another one to take.

Posted by: dave rogers on July 9, 2002 08:06 AM

There seems to be a common thread to the "anger" you and your pals are feeling...It is the result of the systematic retardation of an appropriate regulation or adaptation for an emotion, rather than any form of profundity. Anger is as natural as any other reaction, but I read a lot more adolescent reactionism here than anything that is meaningful. American culture has been fed a steady new age diet of "feelings have meanings" wherein you all feel that your anger has merit or meaning and must be addressed and either responded to or somehow given a sense of closure that is, like the original feeling, totally limited to your own personal definitions. BUNK! The reason you and your brethren here feel an inordinate anger is that you have been impelled to believe that your feelings mean something and must be respected BY OTHERS. That is the fallacy.
You are invited to feel or think anything or any way you want, but you have no reasonable expectation that I or your neighbor or the dog give a flipping fig about it. But the constant drumbeat that your feelings have meaning has driven you to feel slighted when your feelings are met in culture and society with a collective shrug. It is typical postmodernism that you are looking for a one dimensional answer to a multidimensional problem, but first and foremost you need to understand that your anger is representative and a response to the impotency you, and everyone, feels. Sad to say, but I guarantee your feelings of anger will be greatly ameliorated if you would simply GROW UP, start practicing acceptance of others before expecting it for yourself and work within a framework of self-discipline.

Posted by: ericv on July 9, 2002 09:21 AM

Wow, eric, think you can throw in more multisyllabic words to show how smart you are?

We postmodernists here are having a discussion about something we call anger. You don't have to participate, but when you start throwing around phrases such as "GROW UP", all I see is someone who thinks of themselves as superior to the rest of us, and therefore qualified in telling the rest of us that we're wasting the world's, and your time, with our discussion.

As for self-discipline, tis true, I lack this. Probably why my response to you is "PHBBBT!!!!".

Thank you. And have a good day.

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on July 9, 2002 09:46 AM

ericv: I understand your POV on this. I also am in agreement with on some things you say... it does seem like most post WW2 generations suffer from a self-centered sense of importance, as though we (I'm 44 years old) have done anything of historical importance! I daresay 200 years from now our feats (so far) will be dwarfed by those of the generation that preceeded us.

But there IS something that seems to be getting lost in this discussion by some. Reread Shelley's original post... and focus on 'learned helplessness' and the Civil Rights movement of the 60s.

No matter how controlled the anger, how civil the unrest, or how peaceful the demonstrations... can you honestly argue that the Blacks from Martin Luther King through the Black Panthers did not show their _anger_ at how unjust things were? Was not this anger used to get the attention of those in charge?

THIS is (I believe) the original type of anger being discussed. It may not be rage but it most certainly is outrage.

Now, like anything in our society it seems, we take something valid and work it over to the point of making it almost trivial. Civil Rights in the 21st century, 35 years after it began?

Outrage over segregation has turned into OJ claiming _he_ is a victim of racial bias and caucasians needing to know what the latest politically correct word or phrase for what was in the 60s called a Negro. A Black-American can use that 'N' word in nearly any context and never raise anger in anyone, but if I were to, well....

What began as a virtuous display of anger in the early 60s has turned into a prime example of 'learned helplessness'.

What a society! Still, I'd rather live here than in almost any place in the world. And I'd rather be living now than at almost any other time in history!

Posted by: Dave on July 9, 2002 10:15 AM

Group hug?


Posted by: dave rogers on July 9, 2002 10:20 AM

eric v. makes a lot of sense.

Posted by: me on July 10, 2002 09:00 AM

i'm just curious? why aren't you angry at the person who did the shooting of 2 airport employees?

Posted by: me on July 10, 2002 09:06 AM

What makes you think I'm not? I'm angry at anyone who kills others because of religious differences, or because they didn't like the way they worked, or dressed, or the color of their skin. And I'm particularly _angry_ at people who kill themselves, because this is the ultimate waste of all, isn't it?

Isn't it?

Isn't it the fucking it?

Posted by: Bb aka Shelley aka Weblog Bosswoman on July 10, 2002 10:39 AM

yeah, I get angry at that stuff too. sometimes things hurt so much that people just can't take it anymore.

Posted by: me on July 10, 2002 11:14 AM

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