55 minus 12: The certainty of anger

Posted: 5 August 2019 in 55 minus, politics
Tags: , ,

Anger makes it easy to be certain; too easy, as it happens.

I’m a huge fan of people writing while angry. I’m a huge fan of me writing when angry.

I’m not such a huge fan of anyone, including me, publishing what they write while angry.

There are exceptions, of course. But they’re exceptions, anomalies, and should be regarded, treated, and prized as such.

Bernard Levin, for example.

Here’s how he started a piece just after Tony Blair had been elected as Leader of the Labour Party, about three years before the general election which brought Blair and his party to power after eighteen years of Conservative government.

The Times, September 23, 1994
3,000 cheers for a man who can end this sorry era
Bernard Levin

Labour at last has a modern leader ready to sweep to power and end this sorry era.
The longer and more frequently I contemplate Mr Blair, the more I like the cut of his jib. This has nothing to do with the alternative; I long ago concluded that the present Government was worm-eaten, exhausted, dishonest, incompetent, lazy, mendacious, ignorant, rotten, false, disreputable, deceitful, unsavoury, squalid, abominable, soiled, piratical, shifty, discreditable, infamous, improper, obscene, hateful, impure, degraded, dilapidated, shabby, grovelling, discredited, renownless, tarnished, disgraced, shameless, creeping, abject, two-faced, unscrupulous, villainous, treacherous, untrustworthy, prevaricating, sinister, crawling, insincere, fishy, spurious, unclean, felonious, infamous, venal, base, vile, bribable, rancid, disloyal, scheming, unsavoury, sickening, fetid, nauseating, putrid, defaulting, mouldering, evil, vicious, damnable, maleficent, wrong, ineffectual, mean, inferior, contemptible, superficial, irrelevant, expendable, powerless, pathetic, nugatory, impotent, jumped-up, cheap, insalubrious, flea-ridden, unsound, nasty, baneful, foul-tongued, cursed, unwarranted, execrable, damned, abnormal, unreasonable, virtueless, peccant, sinful, unworthy, hopeless, incorrigible, tergiversating, brutalised, nefarious, culpable, scandalous, worthless, flagitious, gross, indefensible and unpardonable to say the least.

But Blair, as far as I can see, is to be found on his own feet, not measuring by the scabrous (I missed that one) Lilliputians now arrayed against him…

By God, the man could write.

But we’re not all Bernard Levin, are we?

Long ago, my then boss, noticing that I was burning with rage over something or other, cautioned me: don’t ever make a speech in anger; if you do, you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever live to regret.

He was right, of course, as he was about so much.

But writing when angry, to get the venom out, to get the fury out, and onto the page, is seldom a bad thing.

More than once in my life, in my career, I’ve written a first draft of something, poured out my rage and anger into the screed and then deleted the whole thing, and started from scratch…

The idea, of course, is to hope that the passion of the argument will remain on the page – or the screen, let’s be fair – while the stupidity that anger inevitably creates remains in the now deleted version.

It doesn’t always work, but it often does.

The twitter equivalent, you’ll appreciate, is the ‘drafts folder’: tweets I’ve written, replies I’ve composed, when I’m incensed, infuriated and inflamed. Every so often, I’ll take a look at my drafts folder and it’s rare indeed that I’m not surprised at a) how many there are in there, and b) what I got so angry about.

And then I’ll delete them. Untweeted, and the better for that, they disappear as if they’d never been written.

And the surprise that remains is one at myself: that I was intelligent enough to both realise that they should never have been tweeted, and that I still then resisted the urge to hit ‘send’.

Someone asked me a while back which would be worse; my Direct [Private] Messages being made public, or the tweets in my drafts folder being published.

I am of course incredibly boring, so while the former might be slightly embarrassing, the latter would be far, far worse.

Because the ‘these are too angry to post; take a breath, budgie; take a step back, and for fuck’s sake, you can’t say THAT’ draft tweets are… written from anger, from sheer fury, and at the time, about subjects or views that I felt too angry to let the immediate reaction stay inside my head.

Because there’s a lot to be angry about. There’s always a lot to write about, but right now there’s a lot to be angry about, and I’ve been avoiding writing about some of it because… well, because I’m not entirely convinced that without the anger, the pieces would fairly convey my views.

Hmm.

No matter where you live, no matter in which country you reside, no matter what your politics, there’s a lot to be angry about.

I might write again about the US soon, but not today. Today, let’s stick to ‘my place’.

In my country – the United Kingdom – we’re faced with the Brexit calamity rolling towards us like a truckload of shit, and the only sensible way to look at the official positions of the two main parties is to ponder whether to call the options of your preferred party a truckload of shit or a lorryload of shite.

How everyone isn’t utterly furious, enraged beyond sense, is beyond me. If you’re a ‘remainer’, why aren’t you righteously boiling about the disaster that’s heading our way? If you’re a ‘Leaver’, why aren’t you pissed off and maddened by the broken promises of those who pledged everything would be easy? (To go from “easiest trade deal in history’ to ‘there will be adequate food’ takes some audacity. To claim everyone voted for the latter takes bullshit, and much of it.)

But politics in the UK some time ago became a competitive sport, or at the very least it’s presented as such, as a zero sum game. Unless you support this view, then you actively support the worst extremes of the directly opposing view…

It’s a provably false premise, but it doesn’t stop the very certain and the very angry repeatedly asserting it.

And it’s not as if Brexit, and the lies suffusing it, are the only major thing about which to be angry, even here. The hypocrisy that now seems inherent to every party, and every faction within every party, is no longer – if it ever was – a bug of british politics; it’s now a prominent feature.

The same applies to the other-ing of, well, others… from both main parties, and the main factions within those parties. It’s no longer a question of voting for the least worst option; in order to do so, you apparently – according to the most vocal supporters of each – have to detest and view with contempt this grouping, or that faction, or an entire religion, or someone you perceive as having more/less in their bank account than an arbitrary amount…

They insist that you be angry about their chosen targets, while entirely missing that you might be angry at their insistence. Indeed, if you’re angry about the ‘wrong’ target, unless you share their anger at their targets, you’re wrong; you’re objectively wrong.

(As a friend said to me some time ago, he hates British politics right now, because it’s wholly presented as choosing ‘which already suffering people do you wish to suffer more?’)

There are areas of political discussion, matters of ‘right and wrong’ about which I’m ‘certain’.

Not that many, but they exist.

And they’re pretty much all on the big, nebulous, things, concepts rather than specific policies. I’m generally in favour of progressive taxation, say, but don’t have a strong view on the number of income tax bands, nor the rates that should apply to each.

I’m generally in favour of changing the voting system, the way in which we elect politicians; I’m less convinced by the arguments of those who are certain that this electoral system or that one is ‘the best’.

I’m open to arguments for replacing The House of Lords… while neither completely convinced that any replacement would have only advantages and no adverse consequences, nor wholly sure that it could be done without huge – really, really huge – consequences to the rest of what we only semi-humourlessly regard as ‘the British constitution’.

Moreover, I can understand, while neither condoning, nor agreeing with, the certainty others may feel about some subjects that I don’t share. Not on all, but some.

But on most stuff; there’s no objective right or absolute wrong; there’s merely a discussion, and set of facts, and some arguments on both sides, and a conclusion they’ve reached – perfectly validly, completely reasonably – albeit a different conclusion than I’ve come to, equally validly, equally reasonably.

The certainty of others about subjects in which I have no real firm views puzzles me.

The certainty of others – when I think none is justified nor warranted – irritates me.

But, the certainty of others combined with the contempt aimed at those of us who do not share their exact anger? That flat out pisses me off.

Anger makes it easy to be certain. Anger makes it too easy to be certain. Certain that you’re in the right, for you would not be this angry if you were wrong, would you? Your fury is righteous, for you are a rational, sensible person, so it’s got to be the thing that made you angry that’s ‘wrong’.

Anger makes it easy to be certain; too easy.

And that’s something that is going to get worse the moment there’s a general election.

I’m dreading a general election. Honestly. One’s likely to occur this year, and if not this year, then next.

And I’m dreading it, and the campaign that leads up to it.

It doesn’t anger me. It doesn’t infuriate me. It scares me.

And I suspect, before this run of blog posts is done, I’ll write about why.

 
 
It’s Tuesday tomorrow. If you’ve been following the blog, you know what’s happening tomorrow. if not, then all I’ll say is the usual… something else tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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