If You’re Angry, You’re Part of the Problem, Not the Solution
It’s ironic that the only thing we all seem to agree on lately is that there’s a lot to be angry about.
On the left, we have the insurgent anger of “resistance.” Race, gender, police brutality, immigration, the environment — unspeakable wrongs are happening right in front of us, they argue — and anyone who can’t see that is complicit. The other side has just as much rage. Just a few weeks ago, Sohrab Ahmari, a Catholic convert and editor for The New York Post became a hero on the right for arguing that the stakes of the culture war are so high that it’s time for conservatives to do away with Christian kindness and civil discussion in favor of seeing “politics as war and enmity.”
If you’re not outraged, they both tell us, “You’re not paying attention.”
Anger, in this way, can seem almost inspiring, even admirable — that it’s a sign of how much you care. The American-Irish political journalist Alexander Cockburn was famous for sitting young writers down and asking them, “Is your hate pure?” If they hesitated, if they squirmed, he wouldn’t hire them. He once asked this question to a young Ed Miliband, who would go on to be the leader of the Labour Party in Britain and later a cabinet member. Miliband replied that he didn’t hate anyone. This, Cockburn smirked as he proudly retold the story, “tells you everything you need to know.”
Yeah, it shows that Cockburn — and the people who stroke our angriest impulses — are only making things worse.
For a simple reason: It’s not controversial to say that most of what is wrong in this world is not intentionally wrong. How could it be, unless you believe that the majority of people are evil? Think about it: Are most people doing wrong on purpose or are they like you — in all the times you have been or done wrong in the past — probably (wrongly) convinced that what they’re doing is right? Obviously anger is not the most effective or appropriate response to these situations.
And what about the cases when wrong is being carried out deliberately? What about actual evil — which sadly is all too real? Here, again, anger isn’t the right response either. Because truly diabolical…