Enough outrage already

English: Jewish bystanders are attacked by an ...

English: Jewish bystanders are attacked by an angry mob after someone throws a bomb during the Christian Corpus Domini procession in Bielostok, June 1906. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where’s the outrage? It’s a question I seem to encounter, either in a news item or on Facebook or on a blog, at least once a week. Maybe it’s not THAT frequent, but it sure seems that way. Anytime anyone does anything that offends anyone else, it seems the offended party wants to know where the outrage is. We’re all apparently supposed to be outraged about all kinds of things at all times–the failures of the politicians we voted for, the machinations of the politicians we oppose, the corruption of organizations large and small around the world, the powerlessness of the little guy, the vendettas against the big guys, the corruption of governments both our own and not our own, the excesses of tyrants, the tyranny of political correctness, the insensitivity of the politically incorrect, the mistreatment of people or animals or land around the globe, the petty or large cruelties of people to each other, and on and on.

Personally, I’m outraged that so many people want more outrage. I think that many of the issues about which we’re all supposed to be raging in the streets are serious problems. I think the world could be a better place, and many of the causes for which activists are acting are good. But outrage for your cause is not an entitlement. You can’t demand it. And even if you could, it wouldn’t do you any good, because all that outrage gets you is a mob (real or virtual) of red-faced people shouting to hear themselves shout. When large parts of the populace get together to support change in whatever is bothering them, change will often come, but not always. Often, the change they want should come, if for no reason other than that so many people want it, but not always. Not everything in the world can be determined by popular vote on social media sites. Not everything can be improved by just wanting it enough. Not everyone with an opinion on an issue is well-informed. In fact, the angry-mob types are often misinformed. Who needs facts if you have outrage? And on those occasions that things do change and are improved by the force of popular will, it wasn’t accomplished by outrage. It was accomplished by someone who actually did something about the problem–who looked at the issue, thought of a solution, and worked toward it. That person may be moved by many emotions, but it’s probably not primarily outrage. When rage is the driving force, the outcome is usually not good.

Do we not have enough anger in the world? Do we not already hate enough? We can barely be civil to people who disagree with us anymore. All our discussions seem to degenerate into name-calling and temper tantrums. We listen to the other side of whatever issue we’re discussing only for long enough to caricature them. Once we hear enough the be able to distort what they’ve said, we stop listening. It’s not just in politics. It’s in life. We’ve broken our society not just into Democrats and Republicans and, now, independents, but into people with kids or people without kids, people with dogs or people without dogs, people with money or people without money, people from here and people from there. Are we ever just people? Do we need more rage?

If you want to improve the world, more power to you. I’m behind you all the way, as long as you’re actually trying to do good, not jumping on the bandwagon of the latest popular cause without bothering to confirm what you’ve been told or to hear the other side. If you want to work for good, work for it. If you want to fight injustice or poverty or tyranny or corruption, fight them. If you want to win support for your cause, make your case and drum up support. It doesn’t have to be only an intellectual argument that you make. You can appeal to emotions too. Make us feel disgust, offense, pity, shame, sympathy, anything but outrage. Those other emotions can bring out the best in us, but outrage only brings out the worst.

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