September 15, 2017
Reflecting on anger
a sort of Introduction
I am trying to write a social justice-sustainability-peace song. This is as far as I have gotten.
Where have all the flowers gone, since the election?
Where has the dialogue gone, now that we yell and scream?
You may say it’s social media, typing, and not raised voices,
But you know we’re all making some dissonant choices.
This divisiveness, it’s like some sort of infection,
All the medicine won’t do any good, not pill or cream,
You may say it’s someone else, spreading these angry voices,
But you know we’re all making these dissonant choices.
Take care of others now, it’s time to give a helping hand,
Find the empathy in your heart, spread it through the land,
Stand up for justice, peace, sustainability, while you can,
Find the common ground where all of us can stand…
I am searching for interconnections and intersectionality between social justice, sustainability, and peace—how each affects the other. I don’t want to focus on the negative, but I do feel a need to say something that would get at the role of divisiveness and hate in our current anxieties and politics—not just in the November 2016 elections, not just between the camps, not just within the left. It is everywhere, infused with out morning hot drink.
We must reach out our hands to each other. Yes, we can and should express our differences, speak our anger, listen to the anger of others. However, we cannot afford to weaponize that anger, to externalize it into missiles and nuclear warheads. Don’t let anger shoot, stab, run us over in an un-civil war of accusations and blame that wounds our souls. We cannot let this roiling rage keep us from joining together in common cause, which we all have—the need for peace, social justice, and environmentally-sustainable practices. We must use our real angers, somehow, as building tools, to join together to create more humane, just, sustainable, and peaceful structures in our world. We must harness the anger to make love, not war.
Even so, it will be an imperfect world.
But, if we find a way to work together, through our differences, it will be a better world, too.
Audre Lorde had this to say, in her 1981 speech (later printed as an essay), The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism:
Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our lives.
I have seen situations where white women hear a racist remark, resent what has been said, become filled with fury, and remain silent because they are afraid. That unexpressed anger lies within them like an undetonated device, usually to be hurled at the first woman of Color who talks about racism.
But anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification, for it is in the painful process of this translation that we identify who are our allies with whom we have grave differences, and who are our genuine enemies.
Anger is loaded with information and energy. When I speak of women of Color, I do not only mean Black women. The woman of Color who is not Black and who charges me with rendering her invisible by assuming that her struggles with racism are identical with my own has something to tell me that I had better learn from, lest we both waste ourselves fighting the truths between us. If I participate, knowingly or otherwise, in my sister’s oppression and she calls me on it, to answer her anger with my own only blankets the substance of our exchange with reaction. It wastes energy. And yes, it is very difficult to stand still and to listen to another woman’s voice delineate an agony I do not share, or one to which I myself have contributed.
Why has this passage come to mind? Besides the fact that it remains relevant about privilege, more than 35 years later, it also speaks to the in-fighting among people who want to change the world positively, who have shared goals in making change—activists, if you will. The need to share our “grave differences,” but at the same time to work together as allies to resist—and overcome—”our genuine enemies.”
It seems to me that these are some of the tools and forces of our genuine enemies: greed, oppression, racism, ethnocentricity, genders-based bias, unfettered capitalism, and fascism. Also: war, famine, and destruction of resources. Also: hatred, division, rage. Also…
Right now, my Facebook feed streams with angry posts between Clinton and Sanders supporters and third camp—fourth, fifth, sixth… camps—who attack both and each other, all arguing an election nearly a year old and few looking for ways to work together for the mid-term elections a little over a year away. People argue about the best way to resist, all the while they criticize and attack each other for not approaching a particular issue in the “correct” way.
What I don’t feel is a constructive analysis and dialogue emerging from this divisiveness. I don’t feel that the anger focuses on the genuine enemies. Instead, the angry posts shred our (potential) allies against those who would divide us on the way to grinding us up. At times, my paranoia rings its tocsin, suggesting that those who oppose positive, life-and-humanity affirming change—my genuine enemies—foment the pitched battles (especially those in social media). I feel that too many of us (yes, I would include myself) think we “understand” the problems we face, and that others “don’t get it.” We want to be correct. My way or the highway.
That path only leads to traffic jams.
Lorde tells us, “Anger is loaded with information and energy.” Are we listening? I often bristle and respond with anger—I fire off a few well-aimed zingers, a few capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Or else, I turn away and don’t listen. I miss the opportunity to learn from the information in the anger.
I fight against the energy in the anger, draining us both, as I argue my point of righteousness. I don’t take in the energy in the “anger expressed” to help energize our (potential) alliance. I don’t look for ways to translate it “into action in the service of our vision and our future.”
Thus, by not listening and firing my “defensive” missiles, I miss opportunities for “a liberating and strengthening act of clarification.”
This is critical when listening across the social, racial, economic, regional, generational, religious, gendered, and so many other divides of the world. It is as critical when listening to the anger that appears ready to pull apart groups of people who want to make a positive difference. When we are torn apart from each other. Divided, we will fall.
Yet, to stand together, we will have to listen to each other, to engage in learning from each other, and to find ways to translate our anger, our pain, our fear for the future into “… the painful process” of this translation, so that we identify who are “our allies with whom we have grave differences,” and who are “our genuine enemies.”
A storm hammers my brain—this tide of attacks without engaged dialogue hammers my brain—my brain hammers against the ways in which I fail to do all of the many right things that need doing. And in my frustration, I forget to try to do just some of those many right things as well as I can—even if not to the level of an ideal and perfect world.
And here is where I end up, stalled, frustrated, angry. But where I want to end up is caring for humanity with empathy at the intersections of social justice, sustainability, and peace. The writing, music, and photographs in this issue have at their heart, I believe, empathic caring for all of our fellow humans. This caring motivates the work you will find ahead. Yes, you will feel anger. Yes, you will hear anguish. But all of it comes from hearts full of a desire to create “liberating and strengthening act[s] of clarification.”
—Michael Dickel, Contributing Editor
100TPC PREQUEL ISSUE: PEACE, SUSTAINABILITY, SOCIAL JUSTICE
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Table of Contents
Honeymoon’s Over, John Anstie
Refugee blues, W. H. Auden
The Hands Off, Paul Brookes
Prisoner, Paul Brookes
The Stricken, Paul Brookes
Three men, Rob Cullen
Measuring the Weight of Clouds, Rob Cullen
I Didn’t Apologize to the Well, Mahmoud Darwish
gods of our making, Jamie Dedes
let us now praise the peace, Jamie Dedes
do not make war, Jamie Dedes
Pigeon dreams, Jamie Dedes
Visions Then and Now / Again, Michael Dickel
Come on up folks, Michael Dickel
High Technology Death, Michael Dickel
the game of war, Iulia Gherghei
Peace in the Desert, Joseph Hesch
genome for survival, Charles W Martin
:: submarine ::, Sonja Benskin Mesher
:: reimagine the world ::, Sonja Benskin Mesher
:: the burning ::, Sonja Benskin Mesher
Building Freedom, Carolyn O’Connell
Another Note in an Endless Melody, Phillip T. Stephens
the places between, Reuben Woolley
virginia’s move, Reuben Woolley
knucklebone excess, Reuben Woolley
Eclipsed, Naomi Baltuck
~ Gen X Musings ~, Corina Ravenscraft
Waiting on the World to Change, John Clayton
Musical Interlude for Change, The Young Bloods and Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach
Except where otherwise noted,
ALL works in The BeZine ©2017 by the author / creator
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