Thursday, November 09, 2006


A Discussion Of "Social Anger"

The article at the link below reflects on social anger in America, and whether or not it is a good thing. The article is neither pro nor con, and cunningly sidesteps value judgments. It classifies the forms of social anger as follows:

1) Economic-Populist Anger - This began on the prairie in the 19th century, and now manifests itself in workers' rage against the outsourcing of labor - both blue collar and white collar - to countries abroad where costs are cheaper. The author suggests that this anger is often anti-progressive, akin to the Luddite rebellion in Britain 200 years ago. Economic innovations that are hurtful in the short term may result in increased productivity and a higher standard of living in the long term. (Or maybe not.) He nonetheless admits that this form of workers' anger can play a role in curbing real abuses, both here and abroad.

2) Liberal Anger - The author remarks that this form of anger is greater now than at any point in the last forty years. It is directed against greed, intolerance and other incontestable evils. Its approach is sometimes too sarcastic and cynical to be constructive however, and the author urges angry liberals to embrace a more full-blooded Dickensian indignation. We must love the victims of social injustice, he says, at least as much as we hate its perpetrators.

3) Traditional-Values Anger - This type of anger has been the hallmark of the religious right, the neo-conservatives and the Bush administration specifically. When it originates from Christianity, it reflects the patriarchal extremism of the Old Testament, not the forgiving inclusiveness of the New. Its fiercest exponents descend predictably into racism, homophobia and character assassination.

The author is very cagey indeed about where he stands on social anger. He suggests that some of it is the whining of a "spoiled-brat society". But complacency is also a trait of the pampered, and he seems to prefer anger to that. Ultimately, he believes that social anger should be directed toward the accomplishment of specific goals. The article is superficial in many respects - certainly in regard to workers' anger, which has many more provocations than simply the issue of outsourcing. Growing income inequality and social insecurity in the United States is not entirely due to the phenomenon of more money ending up in the tattered pockets of deserving Third World workers. Executives who heedlessly sacrifice their employees' welfare to engorge themselves with more wealth than ever are far more an expression of a "spoiled-brat society" than the average Americans who are just trying to keep their families fed.

"The Angry American" from The Atlantic Online

I am a frequent visitor to your WCW blog, Mr Hellwood. I must confess that I typically view your pages in without taking time to comment. I do not post viewpoints often on blogs, but thought I would in this case. I was moved by you comments on ?anger?. As I find myself angry at many things as of late. I do agree with you and much prefer anger compared to indecision and complacency. Unlike you I believe social anger has a purpose. In most regards is directly related to the unhappy state that people find themselves in for a variety of reasons in our society.
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