Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In Defense of Anger

DATA
Anger is a negative emotion. I
wanted to concentrate on something
more positive.

TROI
Feelings aren't positive or
negative Data, they simply exist.
It's what we do with those
feelings that becomes good or bad.

For example, feeling angry about
an injustice could lead someone to
take a positive action to correct
it.

from "Descent", season 6, Star Trek:TNG


Anger, as Billy Crystal points out and Robert DeNiro mocks in Analyze This, is the result of a 'blocked wish'. This reminds us of children denied sweets who holler at the tops of their voices to change their weary parents' minds. As the denotation of 'angry' in fact encompasses a multitude of relatd emotions along a spectrum of physiological activation, from annoyance to contempt to hatred. When the wish that is blocked is your desire to love who you choose or live where you want, can we not see the need for anger? Also the anger caused in reaction to a hangnail is hardly the same order as that produced by cancer. Thus, we could say that since anger can denote a range of different, potentially co-ordinated states, such that the connotations of anger include everything implied by all of those states.
This is an important point to note when we consider the way in which justified outrage at the actions of others is often marginalized by media narratives as anger. We are socialized from very young that anger has very little place in polite society, when in fact, the whole concept of 'polite society' has a seething undercurrent of passive-aggressiveness. How much of a trope is it in American education to punish both parties of a schoolfight. Reason is usally called as a counter when people become angry, like 'can't we all just talk about this reasonably'. This implies that anger in itself is irrational and only leads to violence. Like all cliches we find a nugget of truth in the way in which sustained physiologial rage can produce chemicals like cortisol which can effect health. But rational anger, which has cognitively measured the intent of those triggering this injury, is far more intense than the more common physical frustration.
Yes, extremism is a risk of such a powerful emotion: fear, uncertainty and doubt help to faciliate anger by frustrating the other avenues people may have for affecting change. Political extremists tend to be angry because of this denial, thus pundits implicate that if one is angry you have put yourself at the political extreme. There is such a criminal tendency in liberal thinking towards the need to play fair and accept criticism if you want to offer criticism that people on the left end up being tolerant of people who equate their political philosophy with treason and use homophobia as a campaign tactic. You'd think they have all converted to Buddhism when they talk about how the opposition is too angry to be trusted.
I will raise my voice, if I think its something everyone should be listening to.

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