Monday, March 23, 2009
Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath/Anger Part 1
I missed week two of the Kay's Seven Deadly Sins Meme. The sin was Wrath - which the dictionary defines as "vengeful anger." Given how much vengeful anger is floating around in the world these days, I just kind of hate to have missed that one, so I'm going to post something now even though I'm two weeks late doing so.
I have a lot to say - or at least a lot of opinions and thoughts - on this subject. So much so that I got stuck chasing my tail yesterday when I tried to write this. Probably most of what I want to say is about plain and simple anger, but given events of the times, I think I also want to talk about vengeful anger. Plain ordinary old anger is - despite what most of us are taught - often a healthy response to events around us, but vengeful anger I think is truly "sinful." It is destructive to the well being of all parties.
Vengeful anger (and greed and power lust and dishonesty) is what took us into Iraq. Vengeful anger is what blew up the World Trade Centers. Vengeful anger is what keeps Israelis and Palestinians justifying the continuous drawing of one another's blood. Vengeful anger is what keeps the death penalty in place and allows our society to kill other - often innocent - human beings in the name of justice.
The worst thing about vengeful anger is that it seldom accomplishes much except to breed more misery. Each vengeful act in the Middle East provokes another and the blood of innocents is shed more richly than that of the so-called "guilty" on either side.
Right now in this country around the issue of the economy there is a lot of vengeful anger stewing. I'm not immune to it myself. I didn't have any money for Bernie Madoff to steal but I'm thrilled and delighted to see someone who has harmed so many and lived lavishly on their money - in jail. I have always found golden parachutes and million dollar bonuses offensive and obscene even when they were spending what was allegedly "corporate money." That corporate money, we now know, was really pretty much really high class sleight-of-hand theft... but now it's tax payer's money. The same tax payers who are losing their homes and their jobs. And boy, oh boy vengeance sounds so sweet. Throw them all out on the street. Write laws that violate our constitution and the nature of our law.... It all feels good for a few minutes. But it doesn't solve the problems and it makes everything too simple. One of the really annoying (and wonderful) things about life is (to me) that it is NEVER simple.
Right now we, as a nation, are frightened and feeling very helpless. The constant prattling of ignorant and semi ignorant people who are paid to entertain us with their opinions feeds our anxiety with half truths, truth mixed with lies, truth mixed with ignorance, pure ignorance, pure lies.... It leaves my head spinning. No wonder we all feel crazy! If I had any sense, I'd turn my TV off.... but I can't seem to get myself to do it... But back to the topic at hand.
There is an instinct in this situation to want revenge. Let those companies fail. Throw the bums out on the street. Fire them all. I have those same instincts, but at the same time I also believe that the complexity of the world economy is so far beyond my ability to comprehend that we need people who understand it - even if they have behaved badly - to help fix what they broke. It may piss me off, but who am I shooting in the foot if short-term gratification of quick punishment tanks the world economy? I think there will still be time to punish them later and to write good laws that put limits on the golden parachute life.
But I've wandered off from the topic again. Sorry. Vengeful wrath is kind of like the instant gratification form of anger and reparation. My first therapist once said to me. "We become the thing we hate." It took me a while to comprehend what he meant, but I think it's one of the truest and wisest things I ever heard. Vengeance is about hate. Hate is always destructive and as destructive to the hater as the hatee. I think we usually move to the desire for vengeance when we feel helpless and frightened. Maybe it makes us feel better for a few minutes but it doesn't solve the problem and usually makes it worse... which makes us want more vengeance... and it goes on and on.
I don't know how much sense I'm making here. I do think there is a place for holding people accountable, for asking for, if not retribution, at least responsiblity and an appropriate punishment.
Digressing again. Sort of anyway... As anyone who has visited here for any amount of time knows, I have a lot of anger about the actions of the previous administration and many things which I consider to be crimes committed under the aegis of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I believe that these men and their administration should be held accountable for actions which caused great harm to the nation and the world. I know some think this is vengeful on my part. I'm human and there is a bit of vengefulness in my wanting to see these men go to jail or at the least go on trial. I think it would be vengeance if I wanted them murdered, hung from the highest tree, boiled in oil. I don't want that. I don't even want them thrown in jail without a trial (that would be poetic justice maybe, but it would be vengeance and not helpful). I want the Bush administration held accountable because they represented me and the country I love and launched a war that didn't have to be fought and violated the letter and the spirit of our laws on multiple fronts here at home. If these things are true - and a trial can help decide that - they - and we as a nation - should be held accountable. Asking for accountability isn't vengeance. It's about healing our own national soul.
I guess I bring this up because I think vengeance - rash, usually physically or emotionally violent - is inherently destructive. One of the few "sins" I think is genuinely sinful, wicked, evil, bad, not good, self-destructive, other-destructive, and genuinely not helpful. In the end, finding peaceful, constructive, thoughtful, comprehensive ways to hold people accountable for their actions is more effective. It may not carry the adreneline rush that rage does, but it can lead to real change instead of repeated craziness.
So that's my rambling for today on - sort of - the subject of wrath. At sometime over the next few days, I want to try to write something about anger because I have a whole theory about anger that I love sharing with anyone who will listen. Just have to get my act together to write it down.
I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful day, free of angst and wrath.
Deadly sins posts:
Wrath Part 1