Wednesday, August 13, 2008


GRRRRRRRRRRR. There’s trouble in paradise today as dueling titles of Joan Conrow’s and Katy Rose’s blog entries take diametrically opposed attitudes toward the value of anger .

In a piece entitled “Screw Guilt- Get Angry” Katy recounts the history of American genocidal America and then says:

So what do we do? I suggest we get angry, furious, outraged. We'll never understand the depth of loss and grief of the Native peoples we have forcibly displaced. Guilt, even where appropriate, is limited in its ability to spur us into action. But while the genocide is committed in cold blood and calculated policies, our resistance can be fueled by rage and love.

And it must start right where we're at, with this burial site, and the next, until we get justice and full reparations are made.

But Joan doesn’t like anger and in her retort to Katy titled “Anger Is An Energy” she says:

Anger isn’t going to solve any of the problems that face us at Naue or aid us in resolving any of the other troubles in the world. Why? Because it’s a dead-end, reptilian, boomerang emotion. The most effective and admirable activists I’ve met — Nani Rogers, Henry Noa and Palikapu Dedman, to name but a few — have moved beyond anger and into a place where they come from the heart and just keep plodding ahead.

It’s easy to get angry. God knows there were times when if I’d had a gun, I would have happily and impulsively shot to kill — and, as the old saying goes, repented in leisure. It’s much more difficult, yet ultimately far more rewarding, to strive to remain in that space of loving peace.
But Joan misses the point that anger is a human emotion and it is real. It’s not something that we can just tell ourselves that we shouldn’t feel.

It’s hard to understand how she can say “anger isn’t going to solve any of the problems that face us at Naue or aid us in resolving any of the other troubles in the world”.

As a matter of fact, it’s the only thing that ever can and does

And if she thinks the three activist she cited have no anger it can only be because she either didn’t ask them or didn’t get an honest answer.

.A “place of loving peace”- in the midst of oppression and greed in this world is a delusion none of us can afford.

Denying our feelings is what gets us in trouble in the first place. It’s probably the leading cause of ulcers if not depression. And it’s the enabler of all enablers because it denies our own self-worth..

What’s the alternative to being in touch with our feelings? Are we just supposed to be a bunch of apathetic hypocrites who sit around bemoaning our fate yet faking happy-faces by forcibly pulling up the corners of our mouth in hopes that it sticks that way? Do we just say how sad it is what happened but do nothing about it but sit around and sing a delusional Kumbaya?

And if it’s not our truly felt anger that motivates us to do something about it, what does?

Anyone who acts as an agent of change and reform like Joan, Katy and us may fool ourselves into thinking that it isn’t our anger that causes us to question authority and fight the system

But if we think we’re doing it without anger then we’re either robots, emotionless psychotics or more likely have such a mental aversion to identifying what we’ve dubbed arbitrarily as a negative emotion that we’ve managed to delude ourselves into thinking we are not feeling anger.

If you’re suppressing anger rather than acting on it you’re just as much of the problem as the practitioners of genocide, the crooks, the warmongers and other assorted a-holes who are causing us to feel that anger.

Joan seems to intimate that anger must lead to violence. Not the case unless you’re a sociopath. Anger leads us to go to the streets and try to right the wrongs. A little righteous indignation never hurt anyone unless they start to pick up rock.

Blaming violence on anger is blaming the messenger. If anger leads you to violence you have bigger problems and may need to seek professional help... perhaps it’s because you don’t “believe in” anger and other emotions.

That’s because emotions are there. It’s only through convoluted mentally constructed value judgments that we believe they are good or bad ones

A healthy dose of anger is what motivates people to act. And to suppress that for the sake of some magical mythical “positive energy” because anger is “too negative” is to allow to continue that which made us genuinely angry in the first place.

And it’s the only thing that will motivate us to try to correct those wrong whether we acknowledge it or not.

Detachment from what we are feeling is a hallmark of America. It’s what allows us to oppress others for our own comfort whether by stealing the product of their labors to pad our back account or, as George Carlin used to say, bomb brown people.

In fact it’s actions of the “angry young (wo)man ”- even if (s)he has grown into an “angry old (wo)man”- that keeps us from being a society totally devoid of contact with the reality of our own actions.

We honor the anger of all those who are genuinely pissed off and hope they don’t succumb to temptations to stuff those emotions deep inside where they’ll come out in real violence aimed at those who had nothing to do with causing it in the first place.


Joan Conrow said...

And if she thinks the three activist she cited have no anger it can only be because she either didn’t ask them or didn’t get an honest answer.

Andy, I never said those activists have no anger. What I wrote is that they "have moved beyond anger and into a place where they come from the heart and just keep plodding ahead."

And that was really the whole point of my piece. We all do feel anger. Righteous indignation is fine. It often does motivate people in social causes and that's great. But when people get stuck in that anger, it's been my experience that they aren't as effective because they often aren't seeing the whole picture anymore, and they've frequently lost their compassion.

Yes, anger is a human emotion. I'm not advocating it be repressed, but managed. Because the unconscious venting of it causes all sorts of damage.

Anonymous said...

acknowledge it, express it and MOVE ON! that is the KEY-ACTION. Now,Whatch gonna do with it? Hopefully something positive with long lasting benefits!

LoF said...

Conflict is a good and necessary part of human interaction. Anger is not itself a primary emotion but a reaction to one. It is beneficial because it signals to us that something is not right. However, it is also very dangerous because it generally appears with a sense of powerlessness and if not deliberately utilized can turn into a blind rage which possesses the individual and ends up doing more harm to the individual.

That being said, Native people have every right to be angry and express it. It is very uncomfortable for settlers to see Native people angry (remember the extended hate-fest settlers had with HK Trask in the 1990s). I especially liked the lecturing of her to "not be angry." Native anger troubles settlers because it denaturalizes their privilege and politicizes it in the area of affect.

Colonialism is a violent process physically and psychologically and the healing of that psychologically will not be without conflict.