T’was the age of rage. Is that what future generations will say about our times, that it was the age of anger? Considering the prevailing tone and attitude of our times, that may very well be what is said about our era in history. Rage it seems, is, well, all the rage, if you’ll pardon the pun.
I grew up in the mid 80’s and I don’t recall this much anger when I was a kid. Sure, we worried about a war with the Soviet Union, but overall, we seemed much less stressed and not nearly as angry. Despite the looming threat of a nuclear war with our arch enemy, we were more positive and certainly more civil with each other — talk to anyone over the age of 30 and they’ll tell you the same thing. Today however, anger, negativity and being offended by someone or something, is the norm. I think it’s fair to say that the words which best describe the current atmosphere on our little rock, are animosity, bitterness, exasperation, frenzy, furor, indignation and resentment.
I’m not sure anyone can really say for certain why we’re in the age of rage. It’s probably for many reasons and not just one clear-cut cause.
Reid Wilson offers keen insight with his article in The Hill, “Fury fuels the modern political climate in U.S”:
Americans are angry about everything.
That’s what Rep. Steve Israel thought just months before the 2014 midterm elections. During that cycle, Israel poured over reams of data and watched hours of focus groups with voters across the country. The New York Democrat, who had been tasked with coordinating his party’s messaging strategy, saw voters deeply antipathetic about more than just the partisan political process.
“We saw an historic breakdown of faith in institutions across the board, not just government,” said Israel, who has since left Congress.
People were angry about religious institutions riven by scandal and a financial system that led to the worst recession in modern history. They saw disruption taking place across the economy in deeply personal terms, like the local bookstore that had closed because of online competition or the taxi cab that had been replaced by ride-hailing services. And they saw a political system entirely unable — or unwilling — to offer a response that addressed their growing anxieties.
There have been plenty of times in the nation’s 240-year history in which an evolving economy has produced anxiety. But this time was different.
“The bookstore, the local small business, the taxi, those are proxies for people’s own economic security. And when they disappear, people think they’re next. There’s an existential fear for their economic survival,” Israel said. “Even when our politics and government failed us in the past, people have had safe havens to go to, whether it was sports or the church. Without a safe place to go to, that amplifies anxiety.”
The take away seems to be that religion, politics and the economy are the main drivers of our age of rage. Makes sense, since those three pillars are usually the catalyst for creating a deep cultural divide as well. When folks are stressed about the economy and political leaders fail to lead by example, the effects spill over into everyday life and we find ourselves at each other’s throat over every little thing.
“… After a decade of economic and cultural tumult, one in which our trust in civic institutions has fallen to all-time lows, the degradation of the nation’s political system has left American government at a crossroads. Congress is at a standstill. The two major political parties are both dealing with identity crises.
The chasms that have emerged in the wake of partisan gamesmanship and a vastly uneven economic evolution — even before a more uneven recovery — have become a feature of American life, not a bug.
“Our system is set up for cooperation, negotiation, those sorts of things,” said Rob Griffin, a demographer at the Center for American Progress and George Washington University. “Our system is uniquely unsuited to deal with polarization…”
So is it really all about politics?
I happen to think politics is a big culprit in causing all this strife and that the elevated level of national discourse does stem from politics. Where we once had politicians who truly cared about the national well-being, today we have politicians who are extremely self-obsessed — they don’t run for office for altruistic reasons, but instead, seek office for their own personal gain and ego. Politicians today increasingly lie and use fear tactics to get elected — if winning means having to create and cause a perilous divide among the people, that is precisely what they do. With so many politicians using fear and inciting anger to win elections, is it any wonder that division and angst permeates our whole society?
“We saw an historic breakdown of faith in institutions across the board, not just government”…
American’s anger is now creeping into most aspects of life and because politicians and indeed, even the media, have planted and nourished the seeds of hatred and anger, they’ve created an unwieldy monster that has broken out of the cage and now runs amok through our streets. It’s bad enough they created the beast, but now they’re unable (or unwilling?) to put it back in the cage.
What can be done?
We have to start with root cause(s) and confront them. Americans need to have the resolve to put an end to this intentionally designed madness. It should be totally unacceptable for politicians and the media to maliciously incite anger and division — because make no mistake, the only people who benefit from using fear tactics, are politicians and the money-driven media. To them, even bad press or negative attention is still attention, because it results in “votes,” “viewers,” “clicks” and “readers” — they benefit from causing controversy and creating false fear and angst.
What happened to the days when a politician earned votes? Isn’t it odd that politicians today rarely talk about what they can and will do for their constituents and the country? Why is that instead of presenting their views and plan for making things better, they instead try to convince us that a vote for their opponent, is a vote for the devil himself?
We need to recognize and reject the muck-raking and fear tactics that politicians and the media now use. Let your elected leaders know that you won’t tolerate their divisive games any longer. Reject partisan news media and trash pop-culture media. If we know that they’re intentionally creating this atmosphere of hatred and fear, why are the American people tolerating and perpetuating it?
So yes, we are trying to live our lives in this purposely designed age of rage, in which being offended by someone or something is the new normal. Sadly, it is we the people, who have allowed it to continue and who are keeping the anger and negativity alive.
In my opinion, the solution is that we need to unite to nip it in the bud before it’s too late. One good way to start is to return to a state of civility with our neighbors, despite our differing political view. What if instead of always talking politics or sitting glued to 24 x 7 news, we did something useful, like helping to eradicate hunger, war, loneliness…you know, the things that really matter.
“Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you.” – Joel Osteen