Monday, August 25, 2014

Ursula K. Le Guin on anger

I know that anger can’t be suppressed indefinitely without crippling or corroding the soul. But I don’t know how useful anger is in the long run. Is private anger to be encouraged?
Considered a virtue, given free expression at all times, as we wanted women’s anger against injustice to be, what would it do?
Certainly an outburst of anger can cleanse the soul and clear the air. But anger nursed and nourished begins to act like anger suppressed: it begins to poison the air with vengefulness, spitefulness, distrust, breeding grudge and resentment, brooding endlessly over the causes of the grudge, the righteousness of the resentment. A brief, open expression of anger in the right moment, aimed at its true target, is effective — anger is a good weapon. But a weapon is appropriate to, justified only by, a situation of danger. Nothing justifies cowing the family every night with rage at the dinnertable, or using a tantrum to settle the argument about what TV channel to watch, or expressing frustration by tailgating and then passing on the right at 80 mph yelling FUCK YOU!
Perhaps the problem is this: when threatened, we pull out our weapon, anger. Then the threat passes or evaporates. Bu the weapon is still in our hand. And weapons are seductive, even addictive; they promise to give us strength, security, dominance. . . . 

I see in the lives of people I know how crippling a deep and deeply suppressed anger is. It comes from pain, and it causes pain.
Maybe the prolonged “festival of cruelty” going on in our literature and movies is an attempt to get rid of repressed anger by expressing it, acting it out symbolically. Kick everybody’s ass all the time! Torture the torturer! Describe every agony! Blow up everything over and over!
Does this orgy of simulated or “virtual” violence relieve anger, or increase the leaden inward load of fear and pain that causes it? For me, the latter; it makes me sick and scares me. Anger that targets everything and everybody indiscriminately is the futile, infantile, psychotic rage of the man with an automatic rifle shooting pre-schoolers. I can’t see it as a way of life, even pretended life.
You hear the anger in my tone? Anger indulged rouses anger.
Yet anger suppressed breeds anger.
What is the way to use anger to fuel something other than hurt, to direct it away from hatred, vengefulness, self-righteousness, and make it serve creation and compassion? 

18 August 2014