Stages of Outrage

There’s a lot of anger simmering under the surface sometimes. Like the Hulk, some of my drive, determination, defensiveness and stubbornness as a single woman may be rooted in a simple secret: I’m always angry.

When I laugh at the tweet I saw last week that said “If we put a woman on the twenty dollar bill, will it only be worth $15.88?”, it’s a laugh that hides a twinge of frustration.

When certain politicians co-opt my values and play on fears to get votes, I feel helpless rage.

When my favorite writers are misquoted and misappropriated to prove a point or justify an action, my inner English major goes all Braveheart.

When I arrive at an airbnb booking and there are extra charges and fees and you have to pay for towels and sheets and a 400-euro deposit in cash, and you have no option except to swallow their requirements, because cancellations forfeit the whole cost of the booking.

When my car tires get slashed by someone who makes approximately fifty times more money than I do.

When these things happen, I feel outrage. I sense the injustice of it all. I lose a little bit of hope in the world. I feel powerless to effect change, like it all matters a little bit less.

For others, however, it seems that injustice fuels the sense that the words they have to say in this stage of reaction matter MORE. Words spoken (or written on facebook) in the stage of injustice-processing classified as outrage seem to matter MORE than words spoken out of deep thought, considered study, or any sort of expertise.

It’s not because I never feel outraged at political, financial, race, class, or gender injustices that I don’t often post about them on social media or even here on our oh-so-unbiased-and-totally-like-philosophical blog. I suppose I feel that my response should be more than mere reaction, especially in this culture of outrage, where it’s common to emote outrage every other day about what this politician said or didn’t say, or how celebrity A supported or backstabbed celebrity B, how corporation A is lying and corporation B is cheating.

I’m not saying that anger doesn’t have value. but what happens beyond outrage that we often don’t record? Pick your favorite incident of outrage–an oil spill, a politician misquoting the Bible, Cedric the Lion getting shot, The Bachelor giving a rose to the wrong girl, Disney re-make ruined your favorite childhood movie, or, to use a recent example–The Cincinatti Zoo’s decision to kill Harambe the Gorilla after a four-year-old child escaped into his enclosure.

Who’s the target of your outrage? The mother? People in general who choose to propagate the species? The zoo staff? Zoos in general? The child? THE HUMAN RACE?

You see, outrage is easy. It’s our first reaction. What comes after outrage, blame, and snarky/angry comment discussions that apparently way too many people have time for? Real thought. Real conversations about important things. I am guessing many parents had good talks with their kids about not running away, about death, about how it’s important to care for animals by leaving them room. A realer, deeper anger than mere outrage.  Quietness. Grief. Despair. Confusion. Discouragement. Depression. Coping with a new normal. Healing. Hoping. Responding with life-change, instead of just reacting emotionally.

Comedian John Cleese speaks along the same lines in this video. Comedy, (which we hope can be found on this blog now and again) is a sort of thoughtfulness that takes processing, takes us beyond mere reaction. It requires a filtering and distilling, and it requires hope; a transformation that takes us past “This HAPPENED! OMG! Disaster!” to “This happened, and this is what it means for me and possibly for you, and just like with everything that has happened or will happen, there are highlights and shadows and it’s important to see both of them to get the whole picture. Also, have a laugh to keep from crying.”

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