While I write these words, the U.S. is on fire. Crowds flood the streets of 75 cities around the country to protest against the police’s racial violence which recently resulted in the cold blood murdering of George Floyd. Their voices resonate worldwide, inspiring protests from London to Brazil. Derek Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s throat symbolizes a kind of asphyxia shared by billions of people who live oppressed by the tyranny of a compassionless world which imposes its terms and doesn’t hesitate to step on our rights.
On the other side of the table, President Trump threatens to deploy federal troops and wash the streets with the blood of those he labels “radical left-wingers, low life and scum” to reestablish order.
What is the “order” that Trump is trying to reestablish? Silence, obedience, and subservience to perversity?
And what’s behind the collective anger that’s making people like you and me leave the safety of our homes to face the risks of a pandemic and the legalized violence of the authoritarian U.S. police?
George Floyd is just the tip of an iceberg. One of many victims of U.S. police racism and violence. This same violence has taken the lives Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Ray Tensing, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Jamar Clark, Jeremy McDole, Eric Harris, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and many others whose names we will never know.
Racism and brutality is not a privilege of the U.S. police. As a Brazilian citizen I got used to seeing stories of police violence on a daily basis. One week ago, João Pedro, a 14-year-old innocent boy, was killed at his home by the Brazilian police with a shot to his back. The murderer won’t be arrested. In 2019 we had 1,810 victims of police operations dying only Rio de Janeiro. Most of them, black and poor. Yet no policeman was arrested.
Such brutality is worshiped, rather than condemned.
Wilson Witzel, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, was elected after promising that during his government, the police would shoot criminals in their heads.
Witzel’s bias is not different from Bolsonaro’s and Trump’s. And they got elected, too.
We have elected leaders who bark and bite like mad dogs. The violence in their speech is not by mistake. It’s calculated. It brings votes. Thanks to them, we’re living the Age of Anger.
These politicians understand that people are angry, and such anger can be manipulated.
They target those who suffer the anger of living under the shadow of a ruthless capitalist system that sucks their lives and gives nothing back. They give people the opportunity of feeling on the other side of the board. They turn social warriors like those risking their lives in the Black Lives Matter protests into “communists” and “scum,” saying we should be angry with them. They turn homosexuals into pervert enemies of the traditional family, encouraging their herd to become violent against them. They target minorities and groups that are disadvantaged, turning them into enemies, and putting them in the line of fire. They turn cowardice into a virtue and give people the comfort of their hypocritical philosophies to cover the bestiality of their actions.
It’s difficult to understand the extent to which those who are fooled by such rhetoric are guilty. I’m a white, straight male. I live in a world where I’m unfortunately privileged, although I haven’t done anything to earn such privileges. I was just born with this skin.
Yet it’s my responsibility what I do with my brain and my heart. And this will define me much more than the color of my skin or my sexual orientation.
I can sit in the comfort of a hypocritical discourse and enjoy my privileges, or I can use my inner resources to honor my love and sense of equality.
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I can turn my anger on those who are weaker than me, or I can use it as combustible for fighting the causes that speak to my heart.
There’s nothing new in the fact that we’re angry. Anger is one of our most basic emotions. It’s just part of our human experience, and it can even be constructive if we channel it properly.
The combination of three factors has turned our anger into a global issue that’s turning our world into mayhem:
- Repression – Our patriarchic morality has condemned and repressed our anger. According to Judaism, wrath is a deadly sin. Even if we don’t act on it, we’re guilty for feeling it. The moral repression of our anger has stopped us from turning it into personal power and using it positively and constructively.
- Oppression – We humans have sacrificed a big portion of our wild nature in order to develop our social structures. Coming together as a collective was not an option. It was the only way to survive as a species. In the earliest days of our kind, we were nomadic hunters and collectors. We have sacrificed a lot for protection, food, and shelter. And we have walked a long path from the first tribes to our modern society. Although the society we’ve created is a ruthless monster, full of inequality dominated by corporations and politicians. It oppresses us. We’re seen as a labor force and market, rather than as human beings. Detached from our wild core, oppressed and despised, we feel relegated to become meaningless, lost, and, of course, very angry.
- Manipulation – The moral judgments of our anger make us struggle with our feelings. Anger is condemned, but despite the religious and ideologic standards we’ve incorporated in our lives, we keep feeling it. Are we bad? What we can do with our anger? There’s where the manipulators jump in to divide us and create enemies in whose we can throw our anger. Jews, Muslims, blacks, Chinese, communists, homosexuals, etc. are painted as the bad guys. And the manipulators say you’re right to turn your anger against them because you are good and they are evil. That’s how we end up serving the most Machiavellian agendas, while guys like Mussolini, Hitler, Bolsonaro, and Trump feast on our ignorance.
The anger inside Derek Chauvin turned him into a cold blood killer who abused the power of his badge to slaughter George Floyd. But anger has also brought people together in a global protest against violence and racism. Some got even more creative in the management of their anger and instead of just pushing their government started to do things with their own hands, creating associations like Minnesota Freedom Fund, NAACP, and Black Visions Collective.
The same emotion—anger—can turn us into murderers or heroes. But there’s also a third path for our anger. It’s a convenient path, but it charges an expensive price. We can keep the anger in, ignore it and just accept living our lives as domesticated sheep in a flock managed by guys like Trump. We can anesthetize our struggle with Instagram, Netflix, alcohol, and anti-depressives. We can keep it going, diving deep into alienation. This third path leads to real meaningless and unavoidable frustration.
We’re living the Age of Anger. At this moment, not paying attention to our anger is a terrible idea. We need our anger. Painting anger as a sin was a very good strategy to take our power away and domesticate our kind. Every time we hear the word anger, we automatically associate it with violence and evil. The brainwashing we suffered was very effective.
Violence is the just lowest aspect of anger. It’s the result of struggle, repression, and unconsciousness. But anger is also combustible for internal and external change. It’s at the core of every revolution.
Anger was erroneously painted as the opposite of love. It’s not the opposite, but complementary to love. The peaceful love of the hippies’ age has proved quite ineffective, if not unreal. A kind of love that prefers to turn its back on our social problems rather than working to fix them is questionable. Black Lives Matter, on the other hand, is a manifestation of the anger that comes from the heart. From love and a sense of equality.
The fusion of love and anger is passion. And living a life without passion is a condemnation to meaningless.
You are a warrior. Keep your heart awake, and don’t let your anger be manipulated, anesthetized, or taken away from you.