All of my life I've been afraid of anger - afraid when it's directed at me, afraid when it explodes near me, and afraid to express it openly. This fear, I believe, stems from a mythology in our culture which tells us that anger is bad, uncontrollable, and should be repressed at every turn (just think of Star Wars). To a certain extent, that's true; anger is a powerful emotion which can cause enormous harm if applied inappropriately. However, lately I've begun to reconsider this mythology of anger, where it comes from and what it means to my life.
We live in an oppressive and destructive society. If you need proof of it just look at US foreign policy, or the destruction of the environment. I would never diminish the suffering of people in the South or the lower classes, but those of us who seem to be free because we are more affluent or prosperous are also oppressed, though in a different way. We are oppressed because we are trapped within a system that is devouring the richness and beauty of the world. We are oppressed because we are forced to work for this system, to promote it and expand it throughout the world - just try to escape, I dare you!
In this context it only makes sense to be angry - it's a perfectly natural and reasonable reaction to the conditions in which we find ourselves. Why, then, don't we see more people joining revolutions or fighting against environmental destruction? The answer, I believe, lies in the mythology of anger.
Anger is dangerous. When it's mis-directed it can bring harm to innocent people, and when it's properly directed it can bring about the disintegration of the prevailing power structure. So again and again we are told, by the media, by loved ones, through religion, by psychiatrists and in a hundred million other ways to suppress our anger, to keep it inside and not allow it to escape. If we burst out someday at work, we are sent to a counselor for 'anger management' - if we try to fight back we are labeled as lunatics and sent away. But anger is a powerful emotion and it demands expression; we are torn between our natural sense of frustration and oppression and the mythology that tells us that this anger is bad.
So what becomes of it? A few people (mostly men I suspect) re-direct it onto those around them who they perceive as being weaker - they beat their wives and children, they rape a woman on the street, or they take a gun to school or work and shoot up the popular kids or the executives before turning it upon themselves. This is unfortunate.
Most of us, however, internalize the anger; that is, we re-direct it toward ourselves instead of toward the system that oppresses us. We become fearful, depressed, and give in to despair. We demean, devalue, condemn, punish and, in the worst cases, mutilate or even kill ourselves. I know because I've been there - in many ways I still am, but I've been lucky to have found people out there who have been through the same thing, who have seen through the mythology of anger and lifted the veil from before my eyes. I understand now that what I felt was not despair, but anger turned inward. I also know that this anger is not a bad thing - it gives me the power and the courage to fight against oppression, as long as I am conscious of where it's directed and how it is used.
Does this make me an angry person? Maybe. But it's this anger that keeps me going in a world dominated by a destructive and oppressive system. I'm not about to join a revolution or buy a gun - those of you who know me also know how ridiculous the idea is - but I will fight, with whatever weapons that I do possess and I refuse to give in to despair.