“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
- Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in “Network”
Anger is a misunderstood blessing and a misused tool, and perhaps if we got to know it a little better, we could handle it properly. However, “handling anger properly” usually means either repressing it or channeling it into something separately constructive. That’s not right. At its core, anger is that unpleasant feeling we get when we witness something that’s going wrong. In other words, it’s a warning sign.
When someone is disrespectful toward you, you feel angry. When your boss reprimands you for something that wasn’t your fault, you feel angry. When your health benefits are cut because your government diverts the money towards a war your country has no business getting involved in, you feel angry. But... *dramatic sigh* what are ya gonna do?
Unfortunately, I DON’T know what to do. But I am crystal clear on what NOT to do, and that’s to ignore it or pass it off as *dramatic sigh* one of those things. Anger is a raw energy that CAN be destructive if it’s mishandled, but it’s also a pure form of passion. It is the antithesis to apathy, and it’s apathy, not rage, that’s landing us in trouble.
Hang on... what’s all this talk about feelings doing on a blog about geeky careers? Well, I think the geek audience needs a little reminder that anger (and other negative feelings) are not necessarily bad. Geeks are a tolerant bunch. We are open-minded and compassionate, meaning we shy away from demonstrations of anger. Many of us have also been bullied at some point in our lives, so we fear destructive behavior. Because we prize rational thought and look down upon the raging neanderthals who are more interested in SUVs, contact sports, and war than in actually solving problems, we regard anger as useless and destructive. However, we’ve forgotten there’s a difference between a “HULK SMASH” kind of response and a “This sucks. Let’s fix it” kind of response.
If you let your anger be fuel for a guided, rational plan of action, it is quite valuable. Unfortunately, we approach anger as something to “get out of our systems,” and so we distract ourselves with video games and knitting and whatever else. If this is done on occasion to recover from being mercilessly trolled online or from a bad day at work, then fine. However, if you’re facing an ongoing and systemic problem, then it’s time to apply that raw passion to action. If 100 years ago, abused workers didn’t get angry about the way they were treated, the Labour Movement never would have happened and we’d still be cleaning chimneys for 16 hours a day.
Anger is seen as selfish, in the same way that standing up for yourself is seen as selfish. True, it might be the more calm, mature, adult way to handle things if you just put up with your problems day in and day out. Maybe you’re strong enough to do it, too, without complaint or even showing the slightest sign that something doesn’t seem right to you. We geeks are smart, and so many of us got our first real validation in school. We learned that it was right to do whatever the teacher (the authority figure) wanted us to do and that we should do our work quietly and not bother anyone. To form a cohesive, livable society, this behavior is often necessary. However, when you witness the system breaking down, it’s time to say something. It’s time to stand up for yourself. Stop sending the message that everything is okay, because then the person who is taking advantage of you will think it’s alright to take advantage of the next person. Standing up for yourself is a preventative measure that helps other people as well. It’s not just a matter of self respect. It is your moral obligation.
Part of being a progeek is being a visionary. If you see power being abused, and you're informed enough to understand how it happens, and you're intelligent enough to figure out a possible solution, is there really any question as to whether you should take action?
“Life’s not fair” is the catchphrase of people who want to seem worldly and cool. I propose a different catchprase: “This sucks. Let’s fix it.”