More Than Capable Of Rage

(Originally posted to ‘Cold Wind’.)

The topic for yesterday was anger.

I wasn’t angry – not particularly; at least, not for more than a few minutes when I had to drive twenty miles on British roads. I hate driving, because it means having to deal with constant aggression from other drivers – tailgating, lane hogging, and the like – and this is particularly true of Audi drivers.

That last should give you a clue that quite a lot of my perception of other people’s aggression is, quite likely, down to confirmation bias. That is, I notice the people who’re aggressive – even just a bit aggressive – and translate that into “that’s what British drivers are like”. And my brain’s put a particular focus on Audis. It’s a prejudice of sorts (although I’d find it easy to believe that there are a slightly higher proportion of dicks driving Audis simply because they’re a relatively expensive ‘status’ car).

Still, driving makes me angry. At the very least, it makes me frustrated – and being frustrated tends to make me angry, to some extent. So I started thinking about anger.

Anger is something that’s always scared me. I’ve never liked the idea of admitting that I get angry. I’ve worked in environments where an ‘angry’ person was shorthand for one who was uncontrolled; one who was abusive; one who was dangerous. People commit assaults, cause damage, kill, because they “suffer from anger management issues”. I’ve never liked the thought that I might be or do any of those things. But if a person is ‘angry’, I’ve been trained to assume that this is what they’ll do. It’s what they are. So if I’m angry, I must be uncontrolled, abusive and dangerous.

Objectively, I know that’s not the case. I may not be unfailingly pleasant and agreeable, but I don’t think I do any of these things. At least, I hope I don’t, and I think my legal record should back me up. I believe very strongly in respecting others and hold to broadly pacifistic ideals. Peaceful solutions are always to be preferred to violence; fighting a war – even if we win – just means everyone’s lost.

But if I’m a pacifist, it’s not because I don’t get angry. It’s not because I don’t feel fear, and the consequent urge to lash out at the things that frighten me or enrage me. It’s because I choose not to act on the anger.

I am more than capable of rage. There is fury in my heart. It’s an ongoing challenge of mine to work out where it comes from, and what use it can serve if I won’t express it. Because, beyond the occasional grumpy blog post, I will not. I can’t. Won’t. Daren’t.

At the day-to-day level the anger comes, I think, from the observation (and occasionally the experience) of unfairness and injustice. Not injustice at the hands of the law, necessarily, but at the hands of other people going about their daily affairs. Too many people refusing to accept that they are one amongst many; that the good of the community requires that they restrain their impulses. Too many people cheating. Too many people trying to take advantage. Too many jumping queues, casting down litter, berating and abusing others, stealing property, making threats, attacking, killing. “This is what I want to do, and to hell with the rest of you: I’m damn well going to do it because…”

Because why? Because they’re special? They’re precious snowflakes whose rights must override those of the people around them? They’ll always have an excuse; always a rationalisation. And they’ll refuse, outright, to acknowledge that they might have acted like an ass. How could they possibly be in the wrong?

And I get angry. And I want to do things to them; things to make them stop and realise why they can’t do what they’re doing. Why it’s not right. Or at least to make them afraid to do it again. I fantasise. I wish I was a judge, so I could drop the law on them.

Proper, serious law.

Better still, I wish I had magical power – real movie magic – so I could wield that against them: Oh, you’re going to steal stuff? Well, let’s see how you get on when everything you own suddenly disappears. ZAP.

And you, over there, in the Audi (or whatever): let’s see you bully other road users without an engine. ZIP.

Yeah, you fearsome gangsta? You got a gun, have you? You gunna pop a cap in someone’s ass, yeh? ‘Cause people really talk like that, even when they’re not on the telly? Right, you go on then: see what happens when you pull that trigger. Just don’t come running to me complaining about it out of your mangled face afterwards. ZAP.

Yeah, that anger. That nasty anger. The anger that wants everyone to live peacefully, and kindly, and show respect for society and the world they live in… and given the power, would be willing to bring down a howling storm of mystical vengeance in order to make that happen.

The dark side is strong in this one. Do not give me the Great Ring: I would wish to turn it to good, and it cannot be used so…

Given unlimited power, I would bring the world into an eternal bondage. I would use my power to bring peace and stability to my society and to the planet. I would end conflicts. I would do what I needed to do to make people safe; make them secure; make them happy. I would disarm the nations, destroy all the weapons, pacify the insurgents, and the terrorists, and the rebels – all in the name of making everyone, even them, safe and contented. No more civilians dying at the hands of militants and militaries; no more slaughter. No more threats. No more fear. It’s my way, or… well, it’s just my way, really.

Resistance would be futile.

But I wager I’d get quite a lot, all the same.

That’s the thing, though: I can choose to be good; or not. (I choose to try to be.) But I can’t do good. I can’t make things better. Not at the sort of scales I’d want to. I can’t make things right, or fair, or just. I can only decide how I act, what I say, how I deal with others.

You can’t make people happy. You can’t force people to feel contented. You can’t stop conflict simply by disarming those who want to fight. To do that would require constant and absolute control. Would I do it, though, if I could? I can only hope not. I hope I’d be better than that. But I don’t imagine for one moment that I’m incorruptible. Better people than me have gone to the dark for less power than that.

Better actors, certainly.

So it’s probably as well it remains just a fantasy. It’s an idle indulgence based on the egomaniacal assumption that I know what’s best. Isn’t that just me acting as though I’m the one who’s got it right? As though I’m the one who’s special? And isn’t that belief, when it occurs in others, at the root of most of the things that make me angry in the first place?

Okay, Google: find me a number for a local psychologist, please.

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