In my last post I talked about the perversion of demanding a reward. I did X, therefore I deserve Y. For example, I'm a nice guy, where is the girl I'm owed?
This post will look at the other side of the coin.
There are some things that, in theory, should be easy to get mad about. Holocaust? Extremely tragic and justifiably we should be angry about it. Rape? A violation of a person and should be dealt with accordingly. Serial Killers with no remorse? Probably not the healthiest thing to have in our populace. Jerk embezzles millions of dollars of your money? I'd be pretty pissed.
And really, that's all a good thing.
There was an article about a particular atheist (hat tip Skye). He was visiting a Buddhist Retreat. Overall the stay was bearable, but at one point someone finds out he's a Jew. The next question is "Do you think it’s time for the Jews to work to change the karma that caused the Holocaust?" As a result the author was a little pissed. One of my friends commented thusly:
Complete inner peace comes at a cost. In many ways it is the act of shedding one's humanity and accepting a larger perspective in which the struggles and problems of humanity are trivial. As a result you feel disconnected from reality and become desensitized to the world around you. You may be at peace within, but the world outside still burns.That second paragraph is what I mean. To feel emotions. To feel passionately about a subject. That is a good thing. To desire good in the world, to want the best of others, that is a good thing. We should be able to feel emotions. We should be angry about things like this:
One of humanity's defining features is the ability to feel strong emotional responses to things. Whether it is the anger at a terrible deed or the jubilation from a joyous occasion, emotion is a powerful reminder of the preciousness of life. But emotions are a double edged sword that can both cause and cure suffering. Anger without restraint can drive otherwise rational and non-violent people to respond to terrible acts with more terrible acts.
I like to think that true enlightenment lies between these two extremes, in embracing emotion and letting it move you to action without allowing it to control you.
But sometimes we hold back a little. After all, in our western culture it's the enlightened level-headed philosophers who are the greatest right? We should be poised. We should rationally work through these problems. Letting emotions and gut instincts rule us means we devolve into savages and follow our poor misconstrued judgement. And yes, that is good.
Just don't think it's OK to withdraw and hide in a shell and make it all rational. Living in a world of pain and feeling nothing sounds good, but what about a world of love and not feeling it either. Being unable to feel hate sounds like a great idea, but what about when that hate is deserved and is what can drive you to action? Sure we can talk about being motivated by love only and how noble it is, but they are two sides of the same coin (Dark Side of Force anyone?). Feeling emotional responses means loving something and being angry when that something is taken away.
There is of course a darker side to this. I believe that while we should love and feel vehemently about justice we should also raise up mercy. A rigid worldview that only desires justice is like the unbending Inspector Javert of Les Miserables. Giving everyone their due means punishing those who slip. It means continuing the cycles of poverty. It means you have to have perfect knowledge to give out perfect justice. But we can't. We instead have to work on hunches and bits of information fed to us. And I feel there are many times when mercy should triumph.
Sadly, there are some people who bringing harsh reprimands is the only way to get them to pay attention. It is the only thing they respond to initially. We can talk about an ideal world of love and compassion, but sometimes anger and pressure can be an effective tool to snap someone out of their hole. On a few occasions I've received blunt treatment from a friend. It hurt a lot. But it also forced me to re-evaluate things in a new light. It prompted growth now that my focus was tuned into the problem. Anger can provide focus and can be an effective tool. Hopefully we resort to it as a method of last resort, but to ignore it completely robs us of efficiency.
I think it is OK to get angry. I think being angry shows we feel. It shows that we care. It is something that can kick us into high gear to do something about it. Yes it can be perverted, and no we shouldn't randomly lash out when hurt and angry. But I feel like righteous anger is a thing. And it is OK to rave and shout sometimes. Because it's a response you only have when you care deeply about something.
And caring matters.