Thursday, October 18, 2007

Balancing Outrage

Isn't the title a bit of an oxymoron? I think so. But if that's true, then we've just spent the last 6 years trying to find a way to live out an oxymoron. I wonder if others feel that way.

Here's a couple of things that kicked off my outrage meter today, but you could probably choose any day in the last 6 years and find multiple events on each one that would serve the purpose.

First of all, there is the general degradation of our personhood and dialogue that happens when our tv "pundits" are engaged in calling a presidential candidate a Vaginal-American. And no, I'm not a "Hillary-supporter." But that's not the point. This is an outrage to ALL women.

And secondly, there was the "man-who-would-be-king" smirking about World War III as if it was a joke on all of us. I know we're all used to this by now, but isn't that part of the problem? We've been hearing this kind of idiocy for 6 years now and, for our own emotional survival, we've had to ramp down the reaction.

There are days, when I think that this is all some evil plot to get us so wearied of outrage that the next step towards wherever crazy place they want to take us becomes all the much more easy to go. So in reaction, I want to ramp up the outrage.

And then there are days when I just can't take it anymore and I need an escape. The outrage feels like its poisioning my soul and I want to crawl into some cynical bubble where I don't expect anything better. But that is the end of hope, and I worry about going there.

I've been wondering the last few days how someone like Nelson Mandella kept his hope alive over all those years in prison; being powerless to change things himself while watching his people be degraded and massacred. I don't know that I understand how he did it, but in reading his biography, I know that he paid attention to those with whom he came in contact daily, including his jailers, and offered his heart to them. Perhaps that is his legacy to us today.


  1. I know there are people who speak of taking the outrage and directing it toward action - anger energy. For me that doesn't work very well in that the energy of anger is like a sugar boost, intense, but short lived, leaving me more depleted. Actions (particularly words said) in a reaction to my own state of anger are often the ones I end up regretting, especially when I experience "righteous anger!"

    I, too, have been bouncing between outrage and withdrawal to a "cynical bubble" - a place of hopelessness and despair. But I don't find the cynical bubble is any kind of balance for the outrage if I think of "balance" as a kind of counter weight to the outrage. I am blind and deaf to all the beauty that surrounds me when I am in a state of anger or depression - can't really feel it. They have the same effect. P*ssed off and depressed aren't opposites ;)

    How would you complete this analogy?

    outraged:depressed = ? : ?

  2. I agree completely Tampopo, the cynical bubble is NO anecdote to the outrage. I actually want to avoid the cynicism more than the outrage - its a hopeless place to be.

    My struggle to find the anecdote was what took me to Mandela - wondering how he maintained his clarity, passion and hope during all those years in a situation that, at least externally, looked pretty powerless.

    Part of what I see when I look at Mandela is that his values reached all the way through from the global to the particular. By that, I mean that he gave those around him (even his jailers) what it was he was fighting for in the whole country. Since there was a seamlessness to his commitment, he did what he could where he was and didn't seem to see a disconnect between that and the national struggle.


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