Sunday, January 02, 2005

Being angry

I found an article on anger by Kirsten Anderberg over at Infoshop. It was interesting to me as I’ve often been accused of being “too” angry, or had people say to me on more occasions than I care to be reminded of, “boy, you’re really angry about that, aren’t you?” Usually the context involved an issue where there was a perceived grievance concerning the lack of justice extended to myself or others.

Obviously, there are destructive forms of anger, particularly involving physical or emotional harm inflicted upon others. In Anderberg’s case, this isn’t the anger that she is writing about. The anger that Anderberg is addressing is the anger that comes from seeing justice and equality go wanting at the expense of lies and greed. She speaks about the kind of anger that comes from watching innocent people harmed by one’s government in the name of exporting democracy. While Anderberg mentions that the labeling of being “too" angry is often directed at women and people of color, as a white, privileged male, I too have had this charge hurled my way.

What I found most fascinating about the article and about her premise concerning anger, was the recognition that being labeled “too" angry is most often a tactic for marginalizing her as a thinking person and her critique or criticism of some form of wrongdoing or an immoral or unethical policy. Anderberg accurately represents how the term is used at times when she has been critical of the abuse and disempowerment that comes from being a woman. It also comes when a person refuses to acquiesce in a docile way to the status quo or middle-class paradigm of conducting our lives.

While her article is from the context and perspective of being a woman and the disempowerment that comes from our patriarchal society, the marginalization she speaks about isn’t limited only to women and minorities. Being a male and part of the working, or slave class can produce behavior that gets you labeled “too” angry. If you dare to speak out at meetings, or not act like a sheep in the workplace, that can get you labeled as “too” angry.

Daring to speak out against your government and its abuses will certainly get you labelled quickly. Refusing to put the flag in a position of superiority over people or other cultures can get you labeled pretty damn fast as being “too” angry. I’ve often thought it somewhat dysfunctional not to be angry when you look at all the abuses that are perpetrated in the name of family, faith and flag.

It’s interesting to look at who has been accused of being "too" angry historically. Malcolm X was considered “too" angry. Chicano activists, led by Cesar Chavez during the California Grape Strike were labeled “too” angry. Leaders of Native movements reclaiming land and demanding that treaties be honored have been labeled “too” angry. Feminists fighting for the right to control their own bodies are labeled as being “too” angry.

When I look at how the world operates, promoting the corporate interests of the powerful, at the expense of those who provide the labor necessary for their capital, I am amazed that there isn’t more anger. This is a testament to the level of mastery and manipulation that the powerful are able to enact upon the population in the forms of family, education, media and other tools of control. To see this level of injustice and not be angry enough to want to change things and demand justice is the true anti-social behavior, in my opinion.

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