“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:
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.
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.
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.
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.