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Dear Editor: Anger, outrage, myopia, convenient excuses and inconvenient truths

“It is our right to express anger when there is inequity in the responses to the cries for help. It is our right as citizens and taxpayers to challenge the use of public funds and to question corruption and inefficiency.

“It is also our right to speculate over the misappropriation of anger.”

The following Letter to the Editor, which treats public reaction to the Prime Minister’s invitation to citizens to open their doors to the hurricane-displaced Dominicans, was submitted to Wired868 by Alana Abdool:

Photo: A snapshot of Dominica after the battering of Hurricane Maria.
(Copyright Sky News)

The storm of angry comments that erupted on social media subsequent to the PM’s proposal has been matched by the fevered responses of the columnists, all offering very different analyses of the reasons for and the real meaning of the let’s-open-our-doors-to-the-Dominicans proposal. The comments are not unlike what I have seen before in different nations and for different reasons.

The stories and the sentiments on the ground, however, are usually the same.

How can we help others when charity should begin at home? Is it not more practical to pay our citizens and deploy them in rebuilding efforts?

Amid speculation about diversions and hidden agendas, it was purported that more salt may be on standby, ready to be poured into open wounds. Armed with the wisdom of the ages, some of those in the opposing camp hit back in defence of the PM, accusing those angered by the decision of fear, ignorance, racism, xenophobia and bigotry. Convenient anger, convenient reasons and convenient excuses, it seems.

It may all be mere convenient outrage.

The term suggests a perversion of anger or selective display of anger for more selfish, ulterior motives. However, mere outrage originating from anger describes reactions that are more powerful, due to an extreme state of shock or arising from something perceived as an insult or an injustice.

Photo: PNM supporters celebrate the September 7 election results at Balisier House.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

It makes you wonder what conditions, forces or actions can lead to such an extreme state of anger as to warrant the label of ‘outrage.’ I believe that some of the accounts I have seen in the media as well as a few situations I have seen personally do warrant the ‘outrage’ tag.

Outrage is spawned when you take a man who has been sufficiently beaten by fear and pain, strip him of his rights when he is too weak to fight back and leave him to bleed out his humiliation until death brings mercy.

You can smear vitriol on the tip of an arrow, take careful aim from the moral high ground and pierce his heart after all he has ever been able to call a home and family are destroyed. But your best bet is to inundate him with the pain of a history that he cannot change, imbibe him with the fear of a prison system from which he cannot break free and lock him in the safety of himself and those he loves by birthing the same narrative, generation after generation.

The outcome is involuntary and sometimes uncontrolled, deep emotional hurt, often expressed as anger. It is degrading to the power of charity, selflessness, responsibility and our highest selves to ascribe baser precursors such as ‘convenience’ to what erupts in response to the need to preserve human dignity. And it is not logical to assume that there is any premeditated, personal agenda associated with outrage.

Photo: Women look for refuge in Dominica during Hurricane Maria’s pounding.
(Copyright Times of Oman)

In short, ‘convenient outrage’ is an oxymoron.

Our fallible minds are sometimes wont to misdirect the memories of our own outrage at what we perceive as the source of our pain. But even if we think we are so protected as to not suffer from this condition, anger is our right. It is our right to express anger when there is inequity in the responses to the cries for help.

It is our right as citizens and taxpayers to challenge the use of public funds and to question corruption and inefficiency. It is also our right to speculate over the misappropriation of anger.

It is not right to play on natural biases by the use of coy blandishments or to create fear with the intention of breeding division. It is not right to play on someone’s pain and poverty with the aim of provoking anger. And it is certainly not right to systematically use positions of power to give rise to the conditions for anger and outrage.

Resolutive measures for a greater good are sabotaged by convenient expressions of underlying anger and the repudiation of misplaced or abused anger is not a matter that is easy to address. Indeed, I suspect that a well-trained psychoanalysis professional will find that it is not repudiation at all.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses the audience in his “Conversations with the Prime Minister” series.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

Crime, refugees, illegal immigrants, natural disasters, exploitative capitalist structures, poverty and war all exacerbate the cycles of outrage and anger. The monopolization of pain is an empire that is set to topple our humanity and the quantities of foresight and empathy required to stop its expansion is well beyond the capacity of our little two-island nation.

In the context of the current problem, however, it is dangerous to view the government through the lens of morality or to view them as an instrument of charity.

Varying definitions aside, once you can come to terms with this, you will understand why ‘racist’, ‘xenophobic’ and even ‘bigotry’ simply do not apply.

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9 comments

  1. This article in short is eloquent nonsense. Very well written…but short on facts and everything else. After reading comments on facebook no one in this country can tell me that we don’t have racists here( as much as we hate to admit it) …Our situation is more subtle, and therein lies our problem( although not so subtle when we can hide behind the internet.then we see our true colours)…we believe it’s nonexistent because we can say good morning, open a door for another even have a lime together..so how can we be racists while doing alllll these things? Our situation is a bit more complex( that I won’t delve into at this point because of time constraints) but there is a certain tolerance level here…but just try to become more than that “tolerance” by wanting to become seriously involved or intimate and watch the fireworks unfold..surely yes there are the anomalies..but those are in the minority. Racism is borne out of socialization..one is socialized to be that way. It’s a learned behaviour. If one is not strongwilled with the ability to challenge what was taught to them and break free of it, we’d continue to have what we have in our beloved country..a bunch of learned racists spewing their nonsense eloquently for people of lesser intellect to follow and perpetuate the nonsense. Our politics immediately come to mind. After reading this article is being racist considered a right based on our right to choice? Sometimes I wish I could just be a fly on the wall and listen in on private conversations. Then and only then will we truly understand the nature and magnitude of the beast called racism we are dealing with here. And yes I am speaking about the Indian /African dynamic here for those whose heads are in the sand (not negating the other race dynamics that exist also..but I just touched a bit on the two major races here.) I know this will rub a few the wrong way…because it will hit home directly..and who likes to look in the mirror? But we can’t want a better place to live in and not deal with our underlying issues as a nation and expect the best from its dwellers. We spinning top in mud here.

  2. Kamala and Rowley trip to Africa dat says it all.

  3. Everyone seems to be trying to occupy the moral high ground. It is also easy to set up a strawman and then knock it down. Once the strawman is exposed…well the rest of the argument, even when filled with beautiful logic and prose, falls….

  4. So much to critique here, but ill just start by asking what is the connection with Dr. Rowley’s offer and the use of ‘public funds’? Remember, the first thing he said was. “we are not in a position to help financially…”. Someone needs to explain that. I’ll deal with the humanity side of this after.

  5. “It is also our right to speculate over the misappropriation of anger.” Explain that to me, I’m a bit confused!. You begin by writing foolishness and really want me to respond? You are quite free to get blasted vex and angry, upon destroying blood vessels in your cranium, I will have you transported to the Mt. Hope killing academy where your body will be released to Nello’s Funeral Agency to be destroyed at the public crematorium. Meanwhile, Rowley and Kamla will be enjoying their cup of tea during parliament break and me? Sucking on some cold Caribs watching those beautiful women go by. Hope you enjoy your journey though. And you lov stress?Foolish!