This post is a reflection on anger. Our society, with its continuous inability to stop and reflect, could actually be called an angry society. Nowhere else would “road rage” be the absolutely appalling phenomenon that it is. Also, the glamorization of violence in some of our youth can only be understood as a self-righteous defense of anger. Likewise, only our society continuously asks us to take courses in anger management; as if anger were a question of economics and not of understanding. Even more striking, our antidote to anger is a certain kind of permanent angry humor that avoids the issue itself, but allegedly gives us a temporary respite. On the contrary, reflective moderation is the necessary antipode to anger.
What is unique about anger is that if I were angry writing about it, I would hardly be able to write it. Of course, we think we could, but anger in its real and cruder form does away with reflection. Just remember the last time you “lost” it. Don’t you remember even kicking inanimate things as if somehow THEY had done you something! Odd indeed. Being angry is being unable to articulate. This is true not only when you yourself become angry and find yourself screaming to the top of your lungs’ possibilities, and at the same time throwing your arms all over the place (specially if you are Latino!). It is also true if you yourself are confronted by anger and remain in a dangerous form of paralyzed silence whose alleged defense is to “take in” the anger and quietly retreat into itself later on. That escape into submissive silence does not help either in understanding the phenomenon of anger, but likewise actually generates in the passive individual an angry posture towards him/herself. Freud has taught us much on this.
Both outward-tending anger and inward-tending anger reduce articulation to its bare minimum. This is, in part, the reason why there is much health to be found in the capacity for articulation, primarily in articulating what is darkest in us as human beings. But the darkest is the most difficult to access. As a matter of fact, speaking about anger and violence is the kind of topic which some in society seem to think is best swept under the rug. But such sweeping can be even more dangerous than anger itself. When anger does appear, specially politically, it spills its darkness quickly over the whole community as a wildfire incapable of seeing the origins of its perversions. The Balkans are suddenly caught in this dynamic; Rwanda is suddenly caught up in this dynamic, Jews in WWII are suddenly caught up in this dynamic. Or closer to home. Today December 6th we celebrate almost 2 decades since the death of 14 women at L’Ecole Polytechnique at the hand of one angry young man in Montreal. I was living in Montreal at the time and so am unable to forget this infamous event. here Others will remember others; just now people who live in Omaha have their very own tragic case. Even today the issue of anger and violence towards women by many angry men in the private sphere still remains a topic which we find hard to articulate, find hard to recognize and confront in our anger-ridden society.
Why is it so hard to articulate anger? As I said before, precisely because when angry there is no articulation to be done. We all sense this once the anger passes; we look back and can hardly even recognize ourselves! “That was not really me,” we are told by those who live in anger. When you throw the object you can hardly believe you just couldn’t stop yourself. Likewise, it is difficult to articulate because the angry make us afraid for very important reasons, namely, our very emotional and mental security. But not articulating anger should make us even more afraid as anger —unless modified, redirected, or re-articulated— has a prolonged life of its own. We all have some examples of this persistence. I have seen many in my life (specially of the results in those who do not have the tools to confront the angry and therefore interiorize this outwardly generated self-hatred), but I will take up only two; one personal, one philosophical. (more…)