On the State of Political Rage, Part 12: But Isn’t It “Righteous Anger”?

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

Righteous Anger versus Destructive Anger

One needn’t be a trained mental health professional to recognize the difference between righteous anger and destructive anger.

A person exhibiting the former identifies evil with the natural human emotion of disgust and strong sense of the injustice of whatever is going on. He or she then moves ahead with discovering how to rectify the evil. Solutions might be immediate, or might take days, months, even longer and require the assistance of others of like mind and determination in an evolutionary manner. The goal is always problem solving.

In the meantime, however, (righteous) blood, sweat and tears may be spent depending upon how strong and embedded the evil.

By contrast, a person exhibiting destructive anger, while he or she may also recognize a legitimate evil and display disgust at the injustice observed, he or she may not move ahead to the solution stage by allowing the emotion to run its course, but may linger there.

Making matters more complex, such anger is soon and easily caught up in other strong emotions (justified or not) such as self-pity (if something has been perpetrated against the angered), annoyance/irritation, the urge to seek revenge, and so on. And this gang of emotional miserables  now endangers forward, solution-oriented actions because it quickly devolves into rage. And rage easily eclipses what good may have come from initial anger.

We’ve all likely been there, for this is human, too.

But here is another element of rage that is not goal directed but spirals downward to destruction: such uncontrolled anger is easily both ginned up and then exploited by those who know what happens to reason/critical thinking when emotions overpower it.

Just as a single spark, useful to start a campfire, gets caught up in high winds and quickly ignites a forest fire, anger caught up in the winds of, to my topic here, negative politics (i.e., politics that gain power through any means necessary in order to destroy opponents as an end goal) quickly ignite the destruction, whether intended or not, not only of the “enemy” political opponent but also the entire political system, if left unchecked. Such a Machiavellian tactic, such as is arguably present in today’s brand of “political protest/anarchy,” bodes evil for all especially if the danger of such a tactic isn’t taught anymore in Civics, Political Science, and History courses.

Making matters even worse for both forest fire and political rage, if appropriate measures are not take to halt the destruction (fire fighters sent into the former, peace-keepers and law enforcement sent into the latter) both kinds of conflagrations will consume much, much more than can be imagined.

Indeed, another political ideology that employs its own brand of Machiavellianism, featured in my previous post, views the rage-mongers as, in its term, “useful idiots” who are among the first to be executed, exiled, or imprisoned when a coup has been executed. You see, the (formerly) enraged anarchists likely know too much Additionally, as most have a well-honed sense of injustice (albeit perhaps misled as to solutions), they quickly realize– but too late–who duped, then used, them.

And so to solutions in the emotional, verbal, and physical melee.

Mine are not very sexy, as they say, which term blends “hip, slick, and cool” with exciting and popular movements.

My solutions involve hard lessons won in my own life’s conflagrations, as it were, where I learned that the old-fashioned virtues of patience (though patience not to be mistaken for passivity), diligence, self-reflection, and turning from bad choices to better choices with apologies along the way help me fend off my own bent toward the destructive kind of anger to trying to best discern the justifiable kind of anger that serves the greater good.

Or you might just call this plain, and again, old-fashioned maturity–which goes on until we die.

Although I engage in political activism where I believe it is going to be part of the end-goal of problem-solving, I have learned to be very discerning.

As a long-ago cohort in one political campaign wisely advised me: “causes” tend to attract fringe elements who like a fight, or who have unresolved rage and see your group as a possible means to their own end. I try to remember that and keep my “discerner” up and running as best I can.

But just now, I write this, and other, hopefully helpful, posts. And I hope in so doing I can help disclose the difficulties human beings will always face when living in an imperfect world filled with, well, imperfect human beings. Yet, difficulties that can be solved.

And I hope I encourage the reader if not with my political perspective, with my sincere desire to help tamp down some of the out-of-control political flames that affect us all in one way or another, down to even endangering precious–and key– relationships in the burn. For we need each other now more than ever as the smoke from a now, not-so-distant (political) fire, gets dangerously closer to all of us.

Carrying on the fray…

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