Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Guilt And Anger

Over on The Automatic Earth, StoneLeigh and Ilargi have poted some excellent food for thought. And kicked off a discussion that definitely got me involved. I'm very tempted to just keep commenting and commenting, but I think It's best if I don't start becoming an annoyance there.

The discussion that got me going, was on the Wall Street folks that are now on the public dole, feeling entitled to huge bonuses. Stoneleigh made the argument that we shouldn't get angry at them, as we've enjoyed the same sense of entitlements, and the third world looks at us the same way.

I took this as an appeal to be motivated by feelings of guilt. A strategy that boils my blood. I do not believe in original sin, or any variant thereof. I believe we are responsible for our own actions, not the action of people we have no power over or influence over.

I misunderstood the point I think. As I made the argument that I didn't intentionally commit crimes to gain my booty, and destroy the livelihood of others. Nor have I done this to repress folks in third world countries.

This argument evolved into a couple of clarifications for me. the point was made that anger is not constructive.

I made an argument on this point, and I still think it's valid. If we as a people did get angrier faster, at misdeeds committed in our name, we wouldn't be here today, in this particular pickle. We wouldn't have had the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Iran Contra Affair, Sandinistas, the War on Drugs, the War on Terrorism, and on and on. Righteous anger, in my view can be constructive.

Vicky made a Zen point that my anger isn't actually constructive, because it only hurts me. She calls it obsessive. I concede the point on the level that I believe that she intends it. But once again, if none us got angry, we'd have already been ground into the dirt as slaves, long ago. Slave revolts are driven by anger. Without it, they never happen. Slavery spreads, with no one to fight it.

Our ruling class polls us frequently. They keep a gauge on the public anger, and try not to get us so angry, that we won't let them steal from us any longer. Our anger is manipulated.

And Stoneleigh addressed this point. Collective anger can be channeled to drive horrible deeds. Anger fueled the Nazi Party into power for instance. But this is an incoherent anger. And even as I'm reminded of how that went, I also remember the French Revolution, and even though it was horrible and bloody incident, it was also cathartic, and the French were better off after it occurred. It taught the rulers that the public does have limits.

I worry though that the Nazi example may be the one the USA will follow. Like the Germans, we have strongly divisive party politics, working to drive a party furor. In our national consciousness, the enemy isn't the collective ruling class, it's that other party. The enemies are our friends and neighbors that worship the wrong rulers.

I think that Vicky and the others that responded, feel I'm too angry and as Vicky put it, obsessive. But when I'm working in my garden, playing guitar or engaged in any other activity, I forget politics for a time. My anger subsides. I think that what upset me most about this line of argument though, is that I fear that it leads to apathy. If don't get angry about injustices, then there is no opposing force to counter a continuation of these policies.

An anonymous commentator reminded me of a point that makes me angry every time it comes up.

Obama tells us that we can't prosecute the criminals, because we're all guilty to some degree. Only the sinless have the right to apprehend criminals, charge them, judge them and sentence them. As no one is without sin, no one has the right to interfere with criminals and their criminal activities. When I first read Stoneleigh's comments, this is exactly what I thought she meant. Though I understood she was channeling Obama's seemingly wise words without considering what he meant when he said them.

To lose my anger, I'd have to give up my love for my country. I'd have to quit caring. I'd have to become one of those that I vent my anger at. I don't think that I can be that person.

3 Comments:

At 8:12 PM, Blogger edgar said...

Hi wease,

I never bought into that guilt by association tripe, anymore than the "we torture, love it or leave it, dissent is not tolerated" crowd. The wealthy folk who run everything bear almost the entire blame for the current situation imo.

 
At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Fle in TN said...

Your anger discussion reminds me of a discussion I had concerning hope, I think we are on the same side of the coin.

“I've come to thinking that hope is what one does instead of act. If there is no hope all that is left is action. We need action and we need less tolerance, less tolerance of what is going on, less tolerance of people making bad decisions.”

Howard Switzer
11/16/05

Howard is someone I both like & respect. He is an architect who specializes in straw bale & sustainable construction and is very active in local, state, national Green politics.
I have to disagree with the idea of hope is what one does instead of acting. Disillusionment and apathy lead to inaction. Why would one act at all if the is no hope? Hope is not just wishful thinking, someone else will make it all better thinking. Hope is what drives every action we take. Hope that tomorrow the sun rises. If you have no hope why bother to get out of bed to even see if the sun rose?
I do agree that we need less tolerance of horrendous acts. But even here I think it is more of an over abundance of "pain" stimulus than it is tolerance. Most people can't tell how much "pain" there is until it changes in some fashion.
It is never right to just "hope" for things to change, action must be taken. If one does not take action, action will be taken for you. And it will not be what you want. It may appear to be easier to let someone else make a decision for you, but I assure you, you will die of it or those close to you. Mostly small daily deaths.

 
At 7:00 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

I think I'm in agreement with Howard on 'Hope'. There is a poster I've come across on a couple of forums that likes to repeat a phrase he says he learned from polish family members, "One does not need hope, to persevere."

If you read accounts of the Jewish Holocaust, you'll find that the Nazis kept their prisoners under control and even got them wanting to go into the gas chambers, by giving them hope.

A few years back I read an essay from a holocaust survivor (lost the link, can't remember the name), that explained that hope was what allowed the holocaust to happen. Because at each stage, at each step, hope was held out and the people clung to it, without taking action. Had they had no hope, through desperation they would've acted, they would've fought back at the least injustices, and the holocaust would not have occurred.

They didn't know as the process began, that they would be gassed to death. They didn't believe that this could happen, and the Nazis used 'hope' to manipulate them.

Obama and other politicians, continue to offer hope, even as they work to further destroy our economy. If you cling to his promise of hope and believe in it, why should you prepare for the coming Great Depression? If you have no hope that the next Great Depression will be avoided, then you have no choice but to prepare.

And on this note, I think we can agree that there are degrees of hope and that hope can be applied in different ways. I have hope that I will not die of a heart attack as I lie in bed tonight. I have no hope, that times will not worsen. I have no hope that things will get better in a few years.

But this isn't death. This doesn't give of us cause to give up.

Do you see the perspective that I see this from?

 

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