I am suspicious of the value of anger. Yet, if you allow yourself to be, there are lots of things to be angry about. I find it an irony that often some of the most caring, creative, compassionate, liberal people I have met are often also amongst the angriest. It makes sense in that they care about justice. They can empathise with the hurts of others and they want the world to be a better place. But is anger productive?
When we see that news isn't an unbiased account of the world prioritising what we think is important. We can get angry. When we look at who we choose to make into celebrities, and then see others who doing great work that is desperate for some attention. We can get angry. When we read a book, essay, article, blog post or tweet that treats someone unfairly. We can get angry. If it is directed at you, then you can get incredibly angry.
As a kid, I was introduced to the concept of 'Righteous Anger' with the story of Jesus cleansing the temple. 'And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade." So culturally we accept anger with a just cause. We don't however often agree on what those just causes are, and we don't normally get angry for higher principles. Sometimes the thing that sets us off may not even be the root cause of the anger.
'Christ driving the money changers from the temple' El Greco
Road rage is clearly pointless. I drive assuming someone is going to do something stupid. This does earn me the title of 'Miss Daisy' in my family but also means I am not completely grey (yet). The thing with anger is it doesn't just stop. It can wind you up so much that you can't think about anything else for a while. Once you get out of the car post road rage, you and your passengers suffer, but the idiot (it was obviously their fault) likely feels nothing. So we all try not flip easily. It is not worth it.
The bit which is harder to decide on is whether we should try never flip. The idea of 'righteous anger' may in fact give us an excuse. We want to allow the ability to show that we are passionate about an issue, and I think it can in fact be useful when surrounded by people who agree with you. My main worry is that I think it is a close to useless way to get other people to change their mind - even if you are correct. It is also feels like it quickly becomes a habit. You end up being alway angry, just like the hulk.
It must be very difficult to be a generally angry person while also being a generally happy person. Anger has a real cost to the person who is angry. So the burden of proof should really be on finding cases where anger has actually been useful.
Do you have an example of when anger has been both justified and effective?