Anger As a Cultural Value


2013-08-05 – Robert Reich writes about anger in America and chalks it up to social inequality, with a little help from the media and social media. I have no quarrel, but I think there is more to it than that.

Anger doesn’t appear only in our politics. You see it in traffic. You hear it in popular music. Listen to rap music. It’s all about anger and violence. Sexual violence. They chalk that one up to oppression in the ghetto. But compare rap music to Motown. Somehow, I think Motown artists were more oppressed than today’s rappers. But did they sing about bitches and rape? No. Their songs were love songs.

So where does the anger come from?

Here’s my theory: selfishness is status. Think about class struggle in America. It’s not about lower classes targeting the elite. American class struggle is the other way around. American class struggle is about the 1% saying “fuck you” to everyone. And the 99% tries to emulate them.

What is the intellectual polestar of the Tea Party? The works of Ayn Rand and her ideology of anger and selfishness. Selfishness is a prime cultural value in this country, and anger is its partner.

So Reich is correct, in a way, that social inequality begets anger, but the mechanism isn’t the obvious one. It is more the culture of the elite and the elite wannabes. Cheating works, if you’re on top. Look at Wall Street. Look at professional athletes. It is rare for them to be caught and punished. Why wouldn’t you want to emulate what works?

And, of course, anger creates compelling stories in the media. It gets you attention.

And it pisses me off.

(And check out this story at the Onion: Father Teaches Son How To Fly Into Rage Over Completely Inconsequential Bullshit. Is this fiction or fact?)

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