That guy, from like, before.
Cost vs Benefit
Published on October 12, 2010 By bakerstreet In Politics

The last blog I wrote dealt with the media, bloggers, pundits, politicians battering us with material that enrages us, then spinning us around and smacking our butts to go off and be viral marketeers.  Nothing new there, but what is new is the constant presence of the message in the information age.  A lot of the response was that anger is a good motivator for change, to get people angry and spirited so they can get out there and fix stuff, so a purpose is served.

I know someone who is very interested in politics in my personal life.  They greet the day with coffee and Fox News, they listen to talk radio during the day, and never miss Glenn Beck in the evening.  Conversations with them are interesting.  There are triggers I’ve noticed, like saying the word “doctor”, or “hospital”.  The response is immediately an inflammatory Obamacare statement, usually with a hard period at the end.  The same with anything touching on Mexico, illegal immigration, even Mexican food.  The political scandal of the week inserts new short-term triggers.

This could be considered “awareness” if you take it in a dismally positive light, yet, the mood changes.  If I take the bait there is an argument, if I don’t, the conversation is derailed until the uncomfortable silence passes.  I am no less “aware” than this person, I just don’t have those triggers.  I’ve not been programmed to pop out a talking point when my brain parses a keyword.

Take this and turn it around.  Let’s say I said “This porkchop is delicious.”  Imagine then the person across from me said “Well, be thankful you don’t live in Kraplokistan, children are starving there”, or “I bet you are enjoying it more than the pig enjoyed being slaughtered”, or “I hope it’s worth the greenhouse gases”.  You can almost hear the “wha-whaa-whaaaaa” Debby Downer noise at the end of each.

I can’t really do anything about the starving children of Kraplokistan, and a more important point is that the person on the other side of the table isn’t doing more than me, either.  Granted, my “awareness level” has been raised, and a message has been passed from the original source to me, gratis, but are the starving children of Kraplokistan less hungry?  The major effect of the situation is the overall mood is lowered, I’ve had a much less enjoyable pork chop, and I’m less favorably inclined to share my next one with Debby Downer.

Awareness is a good thing, and activism is a good thing.  Anger can motivate both, but anger doesn’t build houses; it doesn’t cure cancer or feed the hungry or even cast votes.  Those are actions, and actions that require clear-headed, objective thought.  No one gets a house built faster if they consider it warfare with the other builders.  A group of scientists with differing opinions won’t cure cancer faster by making their daily goal defeating their philosophical opponents.  

I challenge the idea that politics has to be warfare.  Politics at its best should be... well, janitorial.  They’re public servants, and getting the job done for us should be the goal, not arguing all day on C-Span.   We are a democracy, so that will require compromise.  The refusal to compromise isn’t a plus, it’s a long-term dereliction of duty to the voters.

But I digress, leaving Debby Downer and myself in uncomfortable silence over the metaphorical pork chop.   Debby is angry, a lot. Debby feels that the world is out-of-joint, no less than the environmentalists or other liberal activists she waves off with a disregarding laugh.  She might write a few letters, and she will most certainly vote.  My question is, outside of a couple of hours of action, how is her life made better by the political angst?  How is the political situation made better?  How is the world made better?  If I get angry, having been made “aware”, and do the same, we get a couple of more hours of action and another life colored with bitterness.

Does the action require the bitterness?  Tell me where to send the check for the children of Kraplokistan, I’m happy to help.  Beyond that, “awareness” seems more to me just to be actively-pursued depression.  Talking about the weather can be an icebreaker, or fill empty moments in conversation, but being constantly angry about the weather is something a bit more self-abusive, isn’t it?  The next guy who flips you off in traffic could easily just be mad about what he heard on Glenn Beck, did it make your life better?

on Oct 12, 2010

The anger is an urge to action.  But you are correct in that it is not a convincer of others.  But it also serves a very useful purpose.  It avoids heart attacks.  The anger you are talking about is a non-violent expression of impotence.  Even Debby Downer, who may campaign for candidates of her choice, and as you noted, votes, is but one of many voters.  She can directly affect only one of 435 house races and one or two of 100 senate races.

I understand her frustration.  I do not make every conversation into a political one, nor do I really care to get in anyone's face when they say they love Obamacare.  But I am just as frustrated.  And the frustration is seeing the guy driving his car over a cliff, and knowing you can do nothing to stop him.

That frustration breeds anger.  And like 1994, the MSM sees that as just another example of the "Angry white redneck" since they are not frustrated when the car is heading towards the cliff (just "surprised" when the law of gravity is not repealed as the car drives over the edge).

You can live your entire life like Debby Downer - and many do, mostly on the left.  But I suspect she is young, and as she matures, she will realize that life is just too short to be constantly angry.  Angry at the proper time and place is healthy.  Constant anger is no better than constant frustration.