Monday, February 27, 2006

Anger without a Channel

About three years ago, on a Friday afternoon, I was walking across a parking lot at a local grocery store when a young man walked toward me talking on a cell phone. It irritated me. Perhaps anger is a better description of what I felt. It was an irrational and purely emotional reaction. I always – always -- try to react rationally. I want to understand myself and my world. The young man was a stranger; he wasn’t talking loud; he was walking and not driving; he was clean and dressed neatly; his conversation and language weren’t offensive; he wasn’t doing anything that anyone could find offensive.

Why did I have the negative emotional reaction? Because, for me, the cell phone represents all that is wrong in the world. It was a Friday afternoon and I was on my way north to Utah, the Arizona strip, the Grand Canyon or somewhere remote that I don’t remember. I remember the experience because of the young man’s innocence and my inappropriate emotional reaction. I need – need – wilderness, nature and self-reliance. It’s not a choice but a need. After being around traffic, noise and population, I need to retreat to the natural world. The cell phone is the antithesis of what I value.

Is this rational? I think I can argue that it is. I’m an animal and a product of evolution. Genetically I’m constructed to need food, water, nature, a degree of danger and self-reliance.

I was raised to be man. My father modeled unemotional self-reliance. He was compassionate but unemotional and independent. He volunteered during WWII out of a sense of responsibility. He taught me that “a hero is just a man who does what has to be done.”

So, here I am, a man who been raised to be self-reliant, to be responsible, to deny fear, to be prepared to stare Satan eye-to-eye without blinking. I find myself living in a shrinking world that is being paved, regulated, restricted, polluted and threatened by corporations and governments.

Species are going extinct. The planet is warming. The federal government is weakening laws intended to protect the environment. There are plans to include items in the next budget to sell off national forest and other federal lands to finance a war that I find aggressive, dishonest, immoral, illegal and evil. The problem is that I’m powerless to fight back.

I could take the attitude “What the hell! I’ll not live to see the effects of global warming. I’ll have enough wilderness lands during my lifetime. I did my time in the military and my son did ten years so we’re immune to the immediate effects of the war.” If I had been an orphan or my father hadn’t been who he was, I may not be who I am and could take this attitude but, such is not the case.

Accidentally, I found Death Clock ( -- a front end to a health site). I entered my details and learned I will die on September 27, 2020 – just 14 years from now. I changed my mode of reacting to life from “normal” to “optimistic” and learned I’ll live an additional 16 years. If I’m optimistic, I’ll live until year 2036!

I’m optimistic about everything in life with the exception of government, corporations and their effects on the environment and the future. By comparison to government and corporations, I welcome terrorism. I can fight back against terrorists with optimism and hope. I have a chance of winning. Terrorist attacks are decisive, black and white events. On the other hand, corporate and government attacks are slow and colored gray. I think we become captives before we know the attack has begun. I have few options and they are weak, sterile options.

It would be interesting to live in a democracy. In a true democracy, I could speak my opinion, appeal to reason, attempt to convince others and vote on legislation. In reality, I live in a “representative” democracy. I have the opportunity to vote for a group who elect the president but I don’t elect him or her. I have the opportunity to vote for senators and representatives who make the laws but I don’t have the opportunity to vote on many laws. The problem, as I see it, is that these elected officials don’t represent me or the majority of Americans. Over sixty percent of the population can express opinions and desires but the elected officials respond to corporate dollars.

Do you think my reaction is inappropriate? If I see someone abusing a child I feel anger that leads to an aggressive reaction. Reason leads me to temper the aggressive tendency and to channel the anger appropriately. I see the earth being slowly destroyed and the hopes of future generations being stolen. I see animals, plants and the natural world being destroyed and I react with anger. I would be ashamed if I reacted with apathy.

Do you disagree? That’s OK. Do you want to point out that I’m wrong? Don’t try. Honestly, I’m not capable of change. There are very few things I know for certain and this is one of them.

What can I do with my anger? How can I channel it appropriately? I have some ideas that I’ll save for the next post.

(I had a wonderful weekend. Saturday morning was filled with an amazing array of birds at our feeder and watering tub. In the afternoon we hiked in the Cedar Bench Wilderness and stayed the night at a small resort that we visit occasionally. On Sunday morning we met an amazing couple from California. He is 81 and worked on several original computing projects in the 1950s including the MICR account numbers on the bottom of checks. To borrow and modify a phrase from a friend: “Life is sweet in spite of the damned government and corporations!”

I’m not interested in getting a debate started so I’m turning off comments for this series of posts.)