I have been thinking a lot lately about anger. Quite a few people have noticed how common expressions of anger are in the blogosphere. And I have been wondering why some people feel the need so often to express their views splenetically. Politics excites a lot of people to anger, even though their participation in the political process probably consists of just going to a polling place in November and casting one of more than 100 million votes. (Hey, if you're so hot and bothered over it, get involved. Run for office. Work in a campaign. I did once. That was enough.) Then there are the angry exchanges over literary criticism or schools of poetry or types of fiction. What is that all about?
I used to get angry a lot, but I realized something about anger one day that pretty much cured me of it in a snap. What I realized was that I got angry because (a) I was hurt and (b) couldn’t really do anything about it. The anger was an expression of impotence. The one thing I could do about what had hurt me was rant about it. No sooner had I realized that than I asked myself, “Why bother?” It didn’t do any good. And it felt awful. There is nothing pleasant about feeling angry. Of course, there’s nothing pleasant about feeling hurt, either, but if you face up to the discomfort, it fades after a while. Anger just prolongs it, like picking at a scab.
Now, of course, I am talking of actual causes of anger in one’s real life. Why people should feel angry because someone voices an opinion they don’t agree with, or why they would think that expressing their disagreement in a truculent manner would in any way strengthen their position — well, that is beyond me. I can’t imagine feeling hurt over an opinion I disagreed with, so that can’t be a factor. No, I think the rationale — if one may call it such — is to suggest that the opinion being objected to is not merely intellectually incorrect, but morally wrong. By extension, the person holding said opinion is not merely mistaken, but culpably so.
One problem with this is that it is rude. No one has the right to presume that another is acting or speaking in bad faith. That someone else’s view of something makes you mad may tell us a lot about you, but does not by any means constitute an argument.