“I cannot be angry with you. Anger would be a waste of the moments we have and would make us weak in the face of the things yet to do.”
I feel like there are undercurrents of anger and even some rage running through America these days. There is a critique of … well … everyone and everything <albeit much of the vitriol seems to be targeted at the president> utilizing some unmistakable xenophobic resentment, lots of wild conjecture, a dash of conspiracy theories and a thread of paranoia.
You can debate some of the words I just used, but suffice it to say that everyone is angry.
Well. Ok. The incredibly rich of the rich just don’t care.
The middle <going down> income are angry at everyone.
The lower middle income people <who are probably hard working &pragmatic but have always had hope to be & do better> are angry at the aspiring rich & the incredibly rich.
The lower income people are just angry <because while they don’t see the poor social mobility numbers that I do which state that America is not the land of opportunity … they already know that if they are born lower income they will most likely live & die in lower income>.
And all incomes are angry at government.
Worse? No one is even really sure what rich is, what middle income is or how much money is enough <except the lower income who recognize that whatever they have is barely enough>.
Thinking about it I believe people are angry on a number of levels:
– People are angry at work.
They don’t feel secure in their jobs on top of they are losing hope they will have opportunities to move up on top of the fact it sometimes seems like charisma <and what is being called ‘instincts’> is being valued more than actually knowing what to do <and rational logical thinking>. Therefore those with ability <or the ability to enhance their ability>, but don’t meet the charisma criteria <gift of gab, appearance, etc.> or don’t value the charisma thing themselves <they just want to get shit done> … lose hope.
And get angry.
And get even angrier when the gap in pay between those who are leading <sometimes not that effectively> is disproportionately out of whack from those who are quite effectively getting shit done.
Home values <most homes major investment> struggle. There is uncertainty with the economy on top of uncertainty with time … people work hard to manage time and yet there never seems to be enough of it.
Now. It would be easy to think I am talking about money, but it is really about hope. Hope for a better life. Hope for better fairness. People are happy in life when they think it’s fair or they get a fair chance. “I don’t need to get to the top … or be the best … or even get the most … I just want to know that I had the opportunity to do so IF I had really been the best or the top or deserved the most.” Most of us realize we are not ‘the best’ or the ‘cream of the crop’, we are just average Joes & Joettes. But we just want to feel like that if by some miracle we were, if but for one critical moment, the best that we would get the opportunity to get what the best get.
Alternatively, no opportunity and … well … we get angry.
Is this unrealistic thinking <because it is just a ‘what if’ scenario>? Sure … maybe. But opportunity & hope are fickle funny things. And pretty valuable to us average Joes.
Bottom line. While Life has always seemed to never miss an opportunity to screw with you at least in the past it seemed like Life was fair <it took away and gave>. We get angry.
– People are angry with themselves
Push social mobility off to the side. Push aggravations with Time. Push government and the system and all the other things off to the side.
We are angry about talking about money & having things — material things — because material things don’t really make us happy <I will discuss this in more detail later>. We know that not only in our hearts and souls, but in our heads. And yet it seems every time we open our mouths words come out about income and owning homes and being able to afford things. We are angry because we are talking about shit that doesn’t really inspire us as people. Simplistically, it sometimes appears like materialism has become the new standard people measure themselves by in society. And greed is the fastest way to attain higher levels of materialism.
But. Here’s the deal.
We don’t like materialism. WE don’t like greed. We don’t like the whole concept of it. And we get angry when it not only appears like it is the most important thing to us, but also when it appears the only way to look, or be, successful is to make it an important thing to ourselves.
Mostly we are angry because we know there is a better way of thinking. We know we are better as people than this.
Ok. Moving on.
It is interesting <at least to me> but when I wrote my Unicorns and Rainbows post it was because I feared that people were losing hope and being depressed. So depressed they had just given up hope and dreaming. I believed the issue then was “tough times and people under daily stress just to keep head above water.” I felt like people just had no time for hope.
Now I feel the overall issue has changed.
Now people haven’t given up on hope and dreams, they are angry because they believe someone, or someones, are screwing with their hope and dreams.
It could be culture in general, economic climate, decaying social moral morays, politicians <or government in general>… doesn’t matter … pick your target … people are angry at something.
What I believe about this anger?
People are looking for someone and anyone to blame for having their hopes and dreams screwed with.
To be clear. There is a difference between hope and optimism.
Optimism is a conscious belief almost an ideology if you elect to be. It has a tangible cognitive attachment to it … almost an expectation of what will be.
Both can lead to happiness <an ever elusive objective>, but, both can also lead to disappointment and unhappiness; if not anger <if people perceive someone is putting obstacles between them and their hope or optimism>.
This leads to an additional problem in today’s world.
While most people are relatively pragmatic with regard to hope, they are not very pragmatic on optimism.
We are a country of optimists – positive thinkers. And maybe, as a book by Barbara Ehrenreich suggests, we have been sucked too far down into the positive thinking tripe hole to get out.
Just a quick note.
I am not ‘anti-positive thinking.’ I believe it can be a healthy addition to one’s life … and in balancing pessimism and/or pragmatism can help maintain ‘hope for something better.’ As I read somewhere … ‘it cannot hurt to put a picture of your dream house up on your mirror … it could be what leads you to your next step toward it.’ My main issue with positive thinking resides in the thought that simply visualizing that dream house will not bring it to you <sorry to Unlaw the Law of Attraction>. This may seem contrary to some things you have read in media about “positive psychology” … but this is truth.
Anyway. While I certainly can agree with ‘too much unrealistic positive thinking” and I can point out that research shows the happiest people actually are not the most positive <or optimistic>, but actually the most pragmatic balanced <they have both realistic optimism as well as pragmatic pessimism>. I will actually suggest to Barbara and her reader’s that it isn’t positive thinking that is creating the issues in today’s emotional society, but instead it is how it affects hope.
“The most dangerous moments are not when people are their poorest but rather when their expectations of significant improvement are raised … and end in frustration.”
Happiness <and Hope> is, and isn’t, about money. Once you have enough money to escape miserable lives of hunger and sickness, money quickly leads to a perpetual state of dissatisfaction.
The role income plays is fraught with conflict. No study has really been able to correlate a specific income to happiness <multiple studies reflect anywhere from $50,000 to $161,810>.
The most interesting thing? When conducting studies like this, if you give someone cookies before you ask this question, the income stated is less.
If you ask them to make a copy at the copier and leave a dime on it for them to think they found it before you ask them this question, the income stated is less.
What does that mean? <beyond the fact research is dangerous to use as your sole decision-making platform>
Money ain’t everything unless you focus solely on money.
Money also leads to lifestyle upgrades. But, once again, that is fraught with conflict. Psychologists call it ‘hedonic adaptation.’ Once you achieve the income you desired … well … you go back to desiring more.
Money also translates to happiness in another very odd way — relativism. If you earn more than your brother-in-law, you are happier than if you just have a certain income. In other words actual wealth does not always equate to happiness <albeit the citizens of richer countries tend to be ‘happier’ than non-richer countries>.
Ah. But hope for wealth does equate to happiness.
<therein lies the value of Hope … actual is valued less than the Hope for …>
And if someone screws with that hope … well … they are unhappy.
This is where reality may be actually settling in to the everyday person.
Optimism can ease the pain of being laid off <downsized>. Optimism can ease the uncomfortable sense of economic inequality.
Well. It does until someone screws with your hopes <therefore attacking all that positive thinking>.
In the past it was easier to not resent the CEO’s earning $10+million a year and the owners of luxurious homes when you thought <or hoped> you had as equal an opportunity to attain that as they did. This is true despite the fact, especially in today’s world, real social mobility is just a myth.
The Brookings Institution stated just before 2010 … “the strong belief in opportunity and upward mobility is the explanation most often given for Americans high tolerance for economic inequality. The majority of Americans surveyed believed that they will be above mean income in the future <even though studies reflect that is a mathematical impossibility – or incredibly high improbability>.
That is perception reality <‘I perceive it so strongly it must be reality‘> … which is almost as tangible as anything else in people’s heads.
Reality is not just unemployment. It is the fact between 1981 and 2003 about 30 million people lost full time jobs in company downsizing.
Reality is a hazardous less stable new workplace.
Reality is ‘working hard’ does not guarantee you ‘something better.’
Reality is that you can paddle as hard as you can … and still sink.
That said. This new reality has not really changed our desires. Our desires, and optimism for what we want and feel we deserve, remain at the same levels as before … if not higher as we watch the top of the top <the richer than rich> become richer and we aim to be able to get to where they are if only we got ‘the break.’
I say all this so I can get past pure economics … and money. Because while money is part of the issue it is more about desires <to have> and increasing levels of desire <increasingly more difficult & disappointing to fulfill>.
I want to get past economics and money because, as I stated earlier, this is all about someone screwing with our Hope. And that, my friends, is unacceptable.
People are becoming furious with those who’ve hurt their hopes.
It leads to a “I would rather be right than listen. Heck. I would rather be angry than listen” attitude. All driven by “I expected more for my life” or even worse … “I can’t picture a future for myself anymore.”
“I had hope … but it’s gone now. I don’t deserve to be disappointed in this way.”
So? People get angry.
I believe so many people are angry because someone & someones <and society in some for or fashion> is screwing with their hope.
Loss of anything is a thoughtful topic and when you make loss equal Hope … oh my.
Everyone always says that loss is natural, but the truth is that when you are going through loss it is the most unnatural feeling in the world. And when it is Hope? Oh my double.
And it would be one thing if all this anger was limited to the fringes, but the anger <and the conspiracy theories and paranoia and everything attached to the anger> has become a pervasive thread in today’s world. Once relegated to email chains and the corner of neighborhood bars and even some oddball blogs, anger has percolated up into the mainstream.
Which leads me to:
“Why should I be angry? It won’t change how you feel.”
Desire defines what we think we need. And often defines how we act. When we don’t get what we ‘desire’ <or expect — they can be interchangeable> it sometimes can bring us mentally to places we never thought we would ever go. It leads us to anger & disappointment.
Frankly … we expect to have Hope. But simply being angry or disappointed doesn’t change the situation.
And <frankly again> … anger is simply a self-imposed trial. Rarely will anger ever change how the other person feels or the situation.
Anger is a black hole. A black hole where nothing exists — there is no past, present nor future in anger.
It would be silly of me to suggest that no one should ever feel anger … because it is a human thing to do.
But. Think about this thought of ‘anger is a black hole.’
Think about it because after anger there is typically a need for some type of forgiveness to fill the hole and move on. Maybe the mistake many of us make is to believe that we can leave the anger behind, we cannot, and probably will not. There will simply be a hole.
And holes need to be mended <or filled>.
I don’t have an answer of how one would ever fill up a black hole enough to insure that which has no past, present or future ends up having some meaning, but I could try and answer by saying that Hope is a pretty big expansive thing.
If society, or the world, or some stupid leaders, stopped screwing with our Hope and actually gave it back to us … well … we would still be angry <remnants remain> but Hope is pretty powerful.
Yet. In the end.
Anger gains you nothing and costs you much.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
That may sound like philosophical tripe in a very practical challenging society and world. But all this anger is burning us up from the inside out. Not just individually, but culturally, societal and … well … whatever bigger entity you want to think of.
This anger is burning us all.
Look. I began with this quote:
“Anger would be a waste of the moments we have and would make us weak in the face of the things yet to do.”
I explained the anger in today’s world.
Heck. I even explained what would solve our anger.
But I imagine my real point is that no one should be able to steal your Hope. In fact no one CAN steal your Hope.
If you lose your Hope, you have no one else to blame but yourself.
Q: do you get angry?
A: why should I be angry? Because someone believes a thing does not make it so.
There is no dignity in anger.
There is no dignity in anger. But people are feeling indignant about a situation in which they feel like they have little or no control over.
But <once again>. You have control over your own Hope.
Me? I feel like we are losing our dignity within all our anger. We seem to be focused on tearing down ideas and thinking <and people> rather than fixing or improving upon ideas and thinking.
And that makes me angry. Sigh.
Original posted October 23, 2013