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It seems like we are becoming an angry bunch of human beings. I realize that we have always had anger in the world, but it seems as if today, with such an elaborate media, we have taken our individual anger to a new level.
So, what is this about and what are the dangers of so much expressed anger?
Let’s first understand what “anger” is all about.
All anger begins with a strong idea about how the world/person/situation should be. This is the underlying basis of all anger. When you create a firm or fixed idea of what some aspect of life “should be,” then you have created an image or idea from which to view the whole world around you. These strong ideas can come from our upbringing, our belief system, our personal bias, or any other set of conditions.
The next step is to compare our held beliefs with what we think is going on in the world. The degree of discrepancy between the “should be” and your idea of what is going on determines the level of anger we will create inside our self. Yes, we create the anger. It is not created “out there” by all those others. We created the baseline, and we make a choice about which data about the world we wish to compare it to. We run the anger game.
The next step is the expression of this self-created anger. But what is unique today is the anonymous and pervasive access to all the digital outlets of our anger. It is reinforced by the enormous access to all the partisan sites that purvey a constant barrage of anger aimed at anyone who disagrees. The media have hyped our anger quotient and the self-justification to be more and more angry. It may be breaking down our society.
This is how it all works. We create a base, we compare, and we express. We put our anger out there into the world, and I would assume that we want the world to change and conform to our beliefs of how it “should be.” It does not work that way at all. Anger serves to disintegrate this world. It creates an automatic anger reaction. This makes the system of our world break down and push us to a state of not working or, even worse, a state of conflict or war. I think we are in a lot of mini-wars at the verbal level, all the time.
Here is a story to illustrate what I am talking about:
I was walking through the shop floor with a president of a medium-size manufacturing company. I asked him what really bothers him about the operation, and he stated his anger about the quality not being as good as it should be. So, we stopped at one of the machines that was a constant source of quality problems.
I asked the operator what were the causes of the quality problems. He listed the normal issues of raw material, machine maintenance, lack of clear specs, lack of data and a few others. I pushed him about what was the biggest issue. He looked at me sheepishly (the president was standing there), and he said the biggest issue is the demand for numbers that forced him to run the machine when it should be stopped for maintenance.
We walked away and the president looked at me and said, “So I am the problem?” I said that it is not him, but it is his anger. He did not understand that. He got angry about quality, and he got angry about missed numbers. How the organization read his anger was that you do not miss the numbers. That was half of it. The other half was, his anger did not let him go and clearly see how his manufacturing system really worked. He blinded himself with his anger. And he would not let himself see his role in this.
I think we are a society that is becoming so angry that we no longer see how our anger is breaking down the social system. We have become so self-centered about our ideas of how it “should be,” we have distorted our understanding of how things work.
Our “should be” attitude has blocked data about how things actually operate, and now we only let in data that agrees with us. Or we take any disagreement as something to be fought against, rather than be understood and contemplated, not necessarily agreed with or disagreed with.
There is no objective gathering of data about how our system works. We have everyone distorting all the data to make a point, rather than to elaborate and create a deeper and more inclusive understanding. We do not want to know that anymore. We want to be right and rant at all those doing the same thing for their position.
In the meantime, we are breaking down the ability to find common ground, to find understanding, to find options and alternatives. We want to express our anger more than we want to find solutions.
No systems can work this way for long.
Columbus retiree Tom Lane is the latest addition to our contributors for the weekly Community Column. He served as a consultant to a number of companies in his career. In recent years his has been a familiar name to readers of The Republic’s Letters to the Editor column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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