It hit me last night during a walk, after a day sadly considering the ongoing righteous anger of people I’ve known for years, that anger is a powerful emotion that often masks even more painful emotions. It is unbearable to sit with the pain of feeling unloved, rejected, abandoned, ignored, powerless, harshly judged, vilified, unfairly punished. Shame, of course, is a famous goad to violence, a cycle observed in every prison, in every slum, where people kill each other for the capital crime of disrespect.
The easy fix for terribly painful feelings is a nice surge of anger at the perpetrators, or those you focus your anger on, which works just as well. In the clean, harsh, black and white light of anger, all becomes clear. These merciless fucking fucks deserve no less than the full force of my manly wrath!
Anger is an automatic reflex to being hurt. Easy as kicking when the doctor expertly hits your kneecap with that little rubber hammer. It also has the great advantage of closing off any conversation that might make you feel uncomfortable, possibly force you to confront whatever terrifying personal demons you are trying to hold at bay. Anger is far superior, and feels much more empowering, than crying in pain about something beyond your control or ability to heal from. It also has the inherent advantage of making you the victim of the person who made you mad. Being the victim is very important for a feeling of righteousness and personal integrity since it lets you off the hook for doing anything you’d be at fault for if you had not been the victim of the person you’re rightfully getting back at with your anger.
On a mass level, which is the aggregate of millions of individuals, anger works exactly the same way. You have middle class citizens who work hard and play by the rules, losing ground every day in a world where your savings are constantly losing value and only the casino of the stock market offers the kind of interest banks used to pay depositors, although you can lose it all when you place your small nest egg on the Wall Street roulette wheel. The job you work hasn’t seen a raise in decades, the union is gone, the plant is about to close so the corporation can make a bundle for the shareholders by moving production to a country with no regulations at all about anything. You look around and more and more “minorities” are getting ahead, they’re on TV, in the movies, winning awards, championships, these rich, spoiled bastards complaining about being mistreated, the victims of systemic prejudice. The so-called party of the working class is openly owned by billionaire corporate donors, just like the other party has always been, and has done little to protect what is being taken from you every day. It’s a billionaire’s world now, and you don’t stand a fart’s chance in a hurricane of getting out of this in the comfort your parents enjoyed at the end. We all know who’s to blame. Time to get some payback!
Make America (insert any country’s name here) Great Again! Like it was in the good days, when everybody was prosperous and before a bunch of activist commie dupes on the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the longstanding protections we all enjoyed during perfectly legal racial segregation. Women knew their place in those days too, did their duty and gave birth to whatever was in their womb, as God intended. And the so-called gays kept their perversions to themselves, on pain of a nice ass whupping, or worse. We put Jesus Christ into the Pledge of Allegiance, for fuck sake, and still the godless communists keep coming, for our God, for our guns, for our children.
Much easier to feel rage toward all these hyped up perceived enemies than to realize you’ve been suckered, divided, conquered, force fed a gallon of stinking bullshit, down the old gullet with a funnel and hose. The problem was never a vast cabal of powerful pedophiles, no such cabal exists (except in fevered fascist propaganda, it’s a favorite charge of Putin) these destructive creatures are universally hated (even when protected and hidden in hierarchies, or by their great wealth and political connections) and don’t last ten minutes in prison. The problem was never most of what you are constantly told it is. Believe it or not, it’s not even a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, and I would know. if it was
The problem in the US and elsewhere is that the super-wealthy 0.01% have finally taken over the political system. Here they’ve orchestrated the appointment of a hand-picked Christian corporatist majority on the Supreme Court, installed by them, that decides what’s constitutional and what must be struck down as contrary to our democratic values. These super wealthy include the eternal vampire psychopaths, created by our courts, known as corporations. Endowed by federal judges with feelings and rights, and even personhood, equivalent to an innocent embryo, these artificial persons are entitled to do whatever they feel necessary, legally spend unlimited amounts of secret money to make the laws, and have the government, that protect themselves, and their profits, the best.
The thought that anger is just a mask, much of the time, for more threatening emotions, struck me as a good starting point to think about a lot of things related to non-harm and kindness. The easiest thing, and it is part of basic survival, is to simply get mad when you feel mistreated. Fuck the fucking consequences, I don’t have to take this kind of treatment from an actual piece of shit! I will rage, and feel righteous, and the unbearable pain and life-sapping fear that lurks inside when I start to consider the harms that were inflicted on me personally will be replaced by a surge of being 100% in the right to smash your fucking face, asshole.
This mechanism, I realize now, was the emotional engine that drove my father, from his shameful childhood to his deathbed regrets. A man, particularly in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, could not give in to the need to have a good cry about the painful betrayal he experienced in his earliest life. Feeling humiliation is unbecoming, unhealthy, crippling, weak. Fuck that, a man takes action!
Sometimes, sadly, that action needs to be righteously bellowing at your children. It’s your right, you feed the ungrateful little provocative bastards, and clothe them, house them, bust your ass working two jobs to give them a life a hundred times better than the horror show you experienced. I understand the anger itself, I saw it regularly, daily, for almost the entire time I knew my father. It was only once, not long before he breathed his last breath, that he had his first inkling that maybe there was a better way to be a human being than raging at his children, keeping his wife on a short leash.
Lack of imagination is a crippling handicap, and a very common one. Without it, you cannot imagine better options than variations on the old standard you inherited from your own fucked up parents. It’s like the corporate insistence that it’s either unregulated worldwide capitalism (freedom) or totalitarian communism. Limited in your seeming choices, you are bound to justify everything you do as the only real choice. Real choice, of course, being limited by what you can imagine your choices to be.
If you do something, and feel totally justified doing it, it must be universal, otherwise, shit… it could be abnormal. The thought of not being normal was one of the most terrifying things my father, who never forgave any hurt, was ever confronted by. When I told him once that he was weird, his brain almost short circuited. The odd expressions that played on his face as he repeated the word “weird” with incredulous inflections made a big impression on teen-aged me. Luckily, for him, everyone in the family knew how fucked up and abnormal I was.