The intensity of a person’s anger is usually inversely proportional to his knowledge of his hostility’s source. You’ve likely noticed the superfluity of people angry over complex issues they’re sure they understand, but whose emotional overload overwhelms whatever capacity for reason they may possess.
Hyperbolic anger seems to be at an all time high. This dark heat is a certain sign that it’s misplaced. The angriest seem to be those with the most education. I don’t equate education with either knowledge or analysis – merely enrollment and duration. In fact attendance at university seems to degrade sober reasoning. As is typical for much of society’s misdirection, leisure is a major pathogen.
Until an instant ago, all our time was consumed by the struggle for existence. Survival was all. Unprecedented plenty is now the rule for that part of the world where anger over trifles is epidemic. Once men no longer spend all their waking hours on the search for food, the struggle against hostile outsiders, and the demands of family they are faced with free time – a condition for which evolution has has not prepared them. Work, struggle, and procreation were for eons the only conditions of life. Retirement and death were synonymous and simultaneous. In addition, adolescence did not exist until yesterday. A person went from child to adult without any interval separating the two.
Years spent ostensibly in the pursuit of arcane knowledge unrelated to utility dull judgment to insensibility. The longer the period of insensate activity the greater the accumulation of deranged certainty. Complex issues are reduced to manichean duos. Craziness is normalized or even encouraged. Just consider the gender wars displacing attention from serious issues. There is no possible meeting in the middle with crazy people. The same holds true for climate change. It’s a serious issue that deserves serious consideration, not rhetorical nuclear bombs. Blaming every problematic change, no matter how remote from the atmosphere, on climate change without giving evidence for the attribution makes dealing with the problem more difficult. People get numb from the constant repetition.
The current economic malaise notwithstanding, the United States is rich beyond any comparison. That some of its residents are said to be struggling to afford Halloween candy is laughable. Halloween candy was not a problem for much of the world’s population before the invention of the internal combustion engine. Starvation has been relegated solely to the consequence of bad politics following the machine’s appearance. So, being out of candy from an historical perspective doesn’t seem like scurvy or pellagra. The demonization of the gasoline powered engine is another luxury of the affluent.
Thus, why all the anger in a time of plenty? The question answers itself. Many people lead lives of noisy desperation. Life abhors a spiritual vacuum so unfocused anger fills the emptiness. Politics is a poor substitute for God. Sean Carroll the noted astrophysicist said the universe doesn’t need God. That may be true, but man can’t seem to do very well without Him.
When government and all its attendant appurtenances is the center of one’s life, the world is a very unpleasant place. No matter how fine and noble the foundations on which a government rests, empty but angry people will seek to subvert its first principles to their own ends. When they don’t get their way, which inevitably happens to even the most favored by chance, anger intensifies to frothy rage.
In today’s world, at least in the so called liberal democracies, marches in support of inflammatory causes are generally displays of stupidity. People are determined to broadcast their ignorance. Anger and witlessness are usually coterminous. For verification of this statement tune into any news channel.
Is there a solution to all this wrath besides heavy sedation? Short of the collapse of society such that the pursuit of survival becomes the sole focus of human endeavor precluding suppositious anger, it’s hard to see relief from distemper. Fishing, woodcarving, whittling, yoga, needlepoint, solitaire, stamp collecting, horticulture, knitting, wine tasting, scuba diving, bird watching, skydiving, marriage, long walks, learning Sanskrit, mountain climbing, playing the accordion are among the activities that might assuage piercing anger. But I don’t hold much hope for their success. The time is too rootless for meaningful relief.