Monday, March 10, 2014

I Have An Anger And Negativity Dilemma, And Maybe You Do Too

The Governess, by Emily Mary Osborn (1834 - 1925) (British) (Artist, Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I don't know how you feel, but I am sick unto death of people and their constant anger and negativity. Everywhere you go, people are expressing their indignation, calling other people out on shit, making fun of people for doing dumb things, and generally bitching and moaning.

Of course, if you're on the internet -- well, yeah, of course. We all know about "comments" -- but it seems even the mildest things these days seem to provoke people. Friends are angry on Facebook that other friends don't post the right kind of things -- too much humble-bragging, or too many pictures of the kids, or the video someone thought was cute is actually pernicious because Some Reason The Person Didn't Think Of.

But it's not just the internet. I feel like people are complaining all the time, about everything. The other day I was at my favorite exercise class, with my fave instructor, who is awesome, and after as we were all walking out, I happened to be behind three people who had been trying the class for the first time. Man, were they upset! "Oh, she thinks you can stretch your adductors with a twenty second stretch! WHAT BULLSHIT." As one of the other people pointed out, the class is pre-organized by someone else -- but you know what? Even if it wasn't -- wtf? News flash: not everything in the world is going to suit you perfectly. Suck it up.

Often I find myself thinking, "Please: if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." And I honestly think a little shutting up would make the world a better place.


On the other hand, I also often feel like things are so fucked up in the world that not to be angry and negative is somehow ridiculous. I often feel like I should be more angry. What with the whole broken world and politics and stupidity and the new "books? who has the time??" it seems like anger is the only reasonable response.

In fact, sometimes when people are relentlessly mild-mannered I want to shake them, like Why Aren't You More Angry??

So there it is, the classic dilemma: To be angry or not to be angry, you're screwed either way.

Now maybe you're thinking it's not really a dilemma, because righteous and deserved indignation is different from petty squabbling, and it's the former where anger is justified, and the latter where it isn't.

Surely that is right in some sense, But in practice it doesn't really help, because for me anger is as much of a mood and general stance toward the world as it is anything. I mean, if I want to feel less angry, what I usually do is adopt a more forgiving and easy going attitude about the world in general. I remind myself that people are flawed and confused, and that they need a lot of love and care that they're not getting, and that it's not their fault if they weren't taught how to think things through.

And this way of feeling angry really does work. But then it has the other effect as well, that I can't muster up the requisite anger when it probably makes sense.

Conversely, I can go around being touchy and easily pissed off, and this is a good state of mind to be in when you really ought to tell someone, assertively, Dude, You Have Problems. But then I can't turn it off, and I find myself becoming enraged by asshats who eat and talk in the library, or stand on the left hand side of the escalator -- and even by those who are trying, but failing, to do something nice, like the people who stand *in* the doorway as they're "holding the door," or the stranger who alerted me that I wasn't carrying my backpack on both shoulders and "did I need help"? (??)

Probably non-anger mode is the best for one's individual health and well-being. But how can you be a philosopher if your attitude toward the world is "Oh, it's OK, it doesn't really matter, love is all you need"?

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