Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pissed Off Over Nothing

"Anger, or at least the unmediated expression of it, has effectively been outlawed. The emotional police have declared war on anyone who remotely resembles an angry young man (or woman). The aim, it seems to me, is to turn the ‘billygoats’ into sheep, yet barely an eyebrow has been raised in response to this insidious campaign of mental manipulation, emotional conformism and spirit-dampening,..."

"The demonisation of anger - more than that, the borderline criminalisation of anger - is part of today’s new insidious, intimate policing of the emotional mind. The wholesale management of anger is an attempt to enforce conformity, spearheaded by politicians, police, officials, judges and health practitioners who seem to prefer a populace that resigns, fatalistically, to the problems it faces, rather than one that asks awkward questions and kicks up a furious fuss."

"Anger was once seen as an understandable reaction to unpleasant experiences or less-than-civilised living and working conditions; it was a rational, sometimes even dignified ‘strong feeling of displeasure’. Now, in the Anti-Angry Decade, it has been psychologised: anger is looked upon as a condition, a disease, a moral failing on the part of individuals which must be treated and corrected."

"The psychologisation of anger has two consequences: first it separates our anger from the experience or the condition that gave rise to it, so that our ‘expressions of rage’ are always judged to be disproportionate, irresponsible and illegitimate."

"The second consequence,...the anger-management movement nurtures a society that is obsessed with policing individuals’ inner lives rather than focusing on transforming the world around us. From the anti-angry worldview, society should devote its resources to correcting rage-afflicted individuals rather than fixing the things that made us angry in the first place."

"You know you live in a deeply authoritarian society when, Stalinist-style, political, social and personal disgruntlement is labelled a mental illness, and the powers-that-be focus on pacifying and even medicating angry individuals rather than listening to and meeting their demands."

"The war against anger is not a top-down conspiracy. This is not
Nineteen Eighty-Four, with faceless authoritarians decreeing that certain emotions must be outlawed. Rather, today’s nervous and insecure elite instinctively fears certain emotions and champions others; indeed, it is precisely because the authorities are adrift and directionless that they feel the need to police the mind and to pacify what looks to them like an unknowable, untrustworthy mass of people: the public. So governments promote happiness in schools and workplaces on one hand, and demonise anger on the other, because they would rather that we were contented little lambs, resigned and relaxed, rather than agitated, questioning and demanding individuals.

And yet there is still a great deal to be angry about,..."

- From Brendan O’Neill, writing in Spiked!


  1. Fantastic pics, CMC, especially the last two.

    You've touched upon one of my favorite subjects here (and no coincidence, if I may observe). I completely agree with O'Neill's observations on the politics of suppression and "pleasant management" of anger. Although as you know I personally prefer avoiding conflicts rather than engaging in angry confrontations, I agree that "playing nice" has been elevated to the levels of pseudo-virtue, where any and all distinctions between gratuitous cruelty and righteous anger have been obliterated. We can see this early on in schools, where both the kid who's been bullied and abused and the bully himself are treated in the same fashion and told to "shake hands," or worse, the bullied one is made responsible for his abuse. In the name of "Zero Tolerance" for anger and aggression, we've been teaching our children to suppress their sense of justice and moral impulses.

    But when we start demanding the anger's right to its full expression again, we better be prepared for what happens. Because we'll have to admit the legitimacy of anger coming from those various corners of the world that we ourselves would rather deny existence sometimes. Like women's anger, for example, that's given rise to and fueled feminism; or anger of religious extremists, who feel that their POVs are being dismissed and/or suppressed. Etc.

    Anger is a powerful emotion and like any emotion (as strange as it may sound when applied to such feelings like love, compassion and forgiveness), it can be used for good or evil. It is the values that guide our emotions that give them direction -- and they are not all the same.

  2. Sulejman,

    Which one are you talking about?