Dougald pays to get emails from a very angry man – Mic Wright’s Substack, Conquest of the Useless (which he picked up via Chris T-T’s The Border Crossing newsletter)
Ed shares his ‘Twitter Hate-storm’ story! (https://mashable.com/article/covert-photos-strangers-going-viral-twitter/?europe=true) From the hottest day ever recorded in the UK – 38.7 degrees in July 2019 and worryingly there’s something of a fairly linear relationship between rising temperatures and rising anger (and violence Ref: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/global-warming-and-violent-behavior – increased aggression, heightened threat perception, raised hostility and escalating violence)
Dougald references John Michael Greer’s ‘Hate is the New Sex’, comparing the treatment of hate as an emotion to the treatment of sex in the 19th C:
“If you want to slap the worst imaginable label on an organization, you call it a hate group. If you want to push a category of discourse straight into the realm of the utterly unacceptable, you call it hate speech. If you’re speaking in public and you want to be sure that everyone in the crowd will beam approval at you, all you have to do is denounce hate.”
Ed refers to the ‘Anger Iceberg’ where anger is the visible reaction, but beneath the surface are potentially many other feelings of being afraid, attacked, offended, disrespected, forced, trapped, or pressured.
Dougald recalls the impact Soil and Soul made on him at 25 – you could be driven by anger and full of life at 19 or 25, but it was a lot rarer to meet people who had that combination at 39 or 45. Alastair MacIntosh’s essay for the first issue of Dark Mountain – activist anger has its roots in unresolved issues with our own parents!
Ed: ‘Anger is an energy’. But the idioms around anger show how it can easily get out of hand…
‘Up in arms’ (literally!), blow a fuse/gasket/top, come down on someone like a ton of bricks, go ballistic, gloves off, haul over the coals, jump down someone’s throat, vent spleen (Medieval belief that the spleen was the source of anger)…there’s a lot of violence in the imagery…
When the red mist descends, which seems eerily reminiscent of the skies over the San Francisco Bay Area during fire season…And then of course there’s the blindness – blind rage, fury – unsighted, uncontrollable, an eye for an eye, Old testament vengeance..
Interestingly in the context of the secondary emotion aspect we touched on earlier ‘Anger’ actually comes from the Old Norse ‘angr’ meaning ‘grief’ or ‘vex’…comes from pain
Which is why anger management is all about recognising the underlying feelings behind the anger, the injustice, the threat, the sense of outrage and upset, and responding to those in a way that isn’t just about boiling away in your own vitriol…
As Aristotle said: “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy”
Dougald cites Neil Philip’s book about Alan Garner – A Fine Anger, and Rowan Williams’s book Lost Icons: Reflections on Cultural Bereavement has a similar quality of refined anger to it.
Interesting about those meanings of ‘angr’ in Old Norse – it’s actually there in Swedish today, ‘att ångra sig’ is to change your mind, to regret
Hugh Brody writes about the Inuit approach to anger in The Other Side of Eden
Cate Chapman’s new essay, Sick – a wonderful poet, a Dark Mountain editor – writing about her journey with chronic illness over the past few years – if anyone has the right to be angry, it’s someone whose life (as a dedicated activist) is interrupted unfairly in her early thirties by a mysterious and debilitating condition – and she writes about this honestly, without smoothing over the edges of what she has to say, and she draws the connections to the chronic illness of our culture, and the chronic illness of a planet
We can’t afford not to get angry – and we can’t afford to stay angry, to get stuck there
Ed talks about how Cate quotes from Alistair McIntosh’s Soil and Soul where he says, …”no place is more sacred, no peoples more worthy of honour, than those that have made beauty blossom anew out of desecration” where she responds “This work of beauty-making can take place in many contexts, both with and without an audience, praise, recognition; with and without far-reaching impacts.”
How to feel the anger. Recognise it. Respect it. Understand it’s origins. But then express it differently perhaps?
Sarah Corbett’s beautiful and profound ‘Craftivist’ work – “If we want our world to be more beautiful, kind and fair, shouldn’t our activism be more beautiful, kind and fair?” (https://craftivist-collective.com/) and the work they did together on ‘Mini-Fashion Statements’ – tiny hand-written scrolls with messages on them around ethical fashion, tied with a ribbon and secreted into the clothing pockets of friends, colleagues or in clothes in shops…to be discovered and inspire curiosity, thought and action around beauty beyond the garment…https://craftivist-collective.com/Projects/Mini-Fashion-Statements
Dougald talks about a text from Vanessa Andreotti and Elwood Jimmy – a booklet that comes out of the painful experience of when things go wrong between a Canadian arts organisation that wants to “indigenise” and/or “decolonise” and hires an Indigenous person and it all goes predictably wrong because they don’t realise the depth of what they’re dealing with here and the organisation feels let down and the Indigenous person feels scapegoating
And it’s so obviously a situation in which there is anger and there is legitimate grounds for anger and it’s definitely not six-of-one-half-a-dozen of the other – but the question is what do you do next? And the ultimate aim is that we find ways to make new mistakes, rather than repeating old ones.
Ed says seeing this quote, after last week’s ‘State of Tension’ episode made him a little angry:
“if you’re losing hope, then you’re not doing enough. Activism is an act of hope. Hope is a discipline. And we can do this because we are here to create the future we want. ”
Dougald refers to the amazing Emma Wallace – about picking up hitchhikers and trying on different identities, different answers to the “so what do you do?” question (gardener, architect, accountant, doctor, teacher, carpenter, nurse), and how she quickly found that one answer generated a stronger response than others – “artist” – she says she’d see a life force in people, and then a money/fame force “have I heard of you?” “so do you sell lots of paintings?” and then a kind of bitterness
“With my Monk hat on people tell me their deepest secrets. That most of them want to be a work of art. With my Artist hat on, people can get very sad and angry and unkind, primarily because they want to be a work of art and think they can’t be and like jealous people in pain they are mean to the artist in us all.”
We finish on a classic piece of McSweeney’s riffing by John K. Peck on the slightly hoary old adage about the ‘Two wolves inside of you’: I spotted this courtesy of Tom Hirons of Hedgspoken Press and ‘Sometimes a Wild God’ infamy…https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/there-are-two-wolves-inside-you?fbclid=IwAR0vtXCxB5s2FkUQ0OXfg7cNmYDE4kX80g3tYuId3KgD3CQsbRElHtoC5TM
“There are two wolves inside you,” said the old man. “They are fighting to the death. One is anger, one is love.”
“Which one will win?” said the boy.
“Whichever one you feed,” said the old man.
“There are two wolves inside you,” said the old man.
“You cannot withstand the storm,” said the devil.
“Try to avoid mixing metaphors,” said the English teacher.
“I am the storm,” said the wolf, before throwing its head back and howling at the single, unblinking eye of the moon.
There is one wolf inside you.
“Was it truly a victory if my opponent was undernourished?” asks the wolf.
“Do you consider it a victory?” replies the therapist.
“I guess? I mean, law of the jungle and all. Still, something about it seems wrong,” says the wolf.
“That’s all we have time for this week,” says the therapist.
The wolf, overcome with rage at the unceasing flow of time, throws its head back and howls [once again] at the single, unblinking eye of the moon.