Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fat, Salt, Sugar & Anger

There is something appealing about being in a persecuted group and having a cause to get angry together about. Getting angry alone doesn't seem to be any fun, but sharing that anger and finding agreement makes you feel bigger than you are. With an ally to get angry with, the emotion is no longer destructive (to you). The bigger the angry group gets, the easier it is to completely lose yourself in the group. Losing yourself means prioritising the worries of the group over your own, which seems to be a big driver of happiness.

I haven't actually had much first hand experience of this. Apartheid ended during my teen years. Besides refusing to sing Die Stem (the old South African anthem) and trying to introduce my all white classmates to Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika in 1992 - my activism as a 12 year old was fairly limited. I was actually a little 'disappointed', if that is the word, when I arrived at Moscow on the Hill (as my university, UCT, was nicknamed due to sustained opposition to apartheid) to find the student body rather apathetic. Most just wanted to play sports, drink, learn (a bit) and explore the mysteries of the opposite (mostly) sex.


I also had a glance in the mirror. I was - White, Male, Middle-Class, English Speaking, Educated... and as my degree progressed, I became a Capitalist. I wasn't persecuted. The closest thing I get to being persecuted is that South Africans receive the Green Mamba - our passport is basically an extension of the Apartheid legacy. The world only partially 'accepted' the new South Africa, and we aren't trusted enough to travel as freely as Europeans and Americans. If you have such a passport, please treat it with the love and affection it deserves and kiss it before you go to bed every night. Even then, my other privileges mean I just need to do the paperwork and I can be accepted. So - boo hoo. 


I don't get to belong to any clubs where we all sit and get angry together. The closest I come to that is when there are complaints about reverse-racism with jobs being restricted for 'people of colour' with fist-thumping calls for meritocracy. Suffice to say, I don't participate in those conversations either and look for the best opportunity to slither away.

Perhaps all of this is why I am most motivated to say that forming angry groups may be awesome, but we can do better.  I want to play too. Anger is like fat, salt, and sugar. It just tastes so good that it is hard to put aside. I like the idea of finding ways to include everyone. I am not saying we all need to hold hands, sing kumbaya around the fireplace and pretend everything is alright. I just think we need to shift to the harder work of creating bigger groups.


To be clear - I am not saying we should defend the status-quo, or accept the way things are. I just think that things are improving. Check out 'Our World in Data'. I have found that malicious people are the exception and not linked to any characteristics that form useful groups. In general, I think the world is a better place than it has ever been. That doesn't mean we can't do better.

Onwards and upwards.

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