Mar 2, 2007

Rage: What's in a Name?

I've been thinking a lot about anger lately, and considering how sometimes, people equate the vocalization of dissent, unease, or disagreement as an instant escalation. (If anyone out there remembers I Was Born With 2 Tongues - they played this out on a track with voices asking "why are you so angry?" over and over).

Anyway, this has come up for me because I've been thinking about my adopted name on this site - just sort of fell into it, and it seemed cool at the time, but when we can be deliberate about these things, we should.

But do I really want to reinforce the habit of many people to immediately peg someone who thinks critically and opens his/her mouth as angry? Think about the way that a righteous black woman in a graduate level class has to say to herself "I don't want to be thought of as that militant/angry black woman," and ends up censoring herself to avoid getting pigeon-holed, and eventually ignored. But if she silences herself, no one can hear her - even if they're listening.

So do we take on these personas ourselves sometimes? For me, is it a performance to seem more menacing than the traditional image of a blogger? I mean, hell, I am angry about some stuff, but I also recognize that anger doesn't always equal constructive energy. And I'm an optimist most of the time, especially after I've eaten. So what gives?

There's something larger afoot about the danger of groupthinking less of the folks who think differently, of course, but maybe we can draw this out a little larger...

For example, why do we all use so much military jargon and turns of phrase, even as dedicated peace activists, and advocates of non-violence. I've "rallied the troops," "assessed my targets," fought "battles" and "dropped bombs" in settings that had nothing to do with aggression, violence or anything of the sort. But how does using that terminology help us in the work that we're doing, and how does it send mixed messages?

A friend of mine made a statement saying that she was "bitching" about something in the company of about 10-15 folks, some of whom are ardent feminists. My friend is progressive, and has a commitment to human rights issues, but she never really thought about how using the "shorthand" of that word to describe a particular activity was a covert oppressive act itself.

I can talk about language all day - yesterday, the city of New York decided to ban the use of the n-word. I don't think that the ban holds the weight of statutory law, but it's still a powerful message (I guess in light of the ban on smoking, trans fats, and blocking the box, folks might say this is the last straw, taking away their right to say what they want to say but I would probably want to beat the shit out of those people, so it doesn't really matter to me).

Which brings me back to where I began - anger... animosity...rage. Even if we really have this inside us that makes us escalate within, should we really advertise it with the personas we take on? More in the last year or so, I've felt things boil up quickly, especially while on the road. While I don't think I was ever passive, I definitely didn't care as much about little things before - is the excuse stress? Or is it some kind of slipping backwards into a less advanced consciousness? Or is repression of anger what is really unnatural, and what we should address?

Maybe we all need to vent, and yoga and meditation isn't the quick release that let's us get there?

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