Page One

Constructive Anger

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday December 30, 2009 - 09:03:00 AM

In today’s America, a flock of well-to-do scoundrels would have us believe that anger, unhappiness, discontent and rage are mere problems of thinking. 

Change your thinking, we’re told. Think positive thoughts and you’ll attract positive energy. You’re miserable about being poor. Just think prosperous thoughts, you’ll be prosperous. Pay me $500 to attend my introductory prosperity seminar and you’ll be on the road to wealth and happiness ... and if you don’t get showered with pennies from heaven, well, you’re thinking is screwed up and you’ll have to attend my $5,000 weekend introduction to the secrets of wealth revealed.  

A few minutes spent searching the Internet for quotations about anger yield an immense amount of verbiage in their support from folks ranging from Gandhi and Einstein to Marcus Aurelius and Benjamin Franklin deploring an emotion that is inherent in the human condition. Anger, they say, is a condition to be deplored, controlled, smothered. And who can deny that anger can be self-destructive, cloud the judgment, thwart constructive action and lead to regret. 

But there’s constructive anger, a fierce inner fire that can fuel constructive change. It is this anger that the preachers of prosperity would drown with the venial and meaningless mantras of personal responsibility. 

Consider the following: 


A function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purposes when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. 

—William O Douglas 


Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change. 

—Malcolm X 


The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction. 

—William Blake 


The tragedy of America today is that righteous anger has been co-opted by a sociopath, the modern corporation, the most devilish creation of the Western system of jurisprudence. I’ll quote a definition offered by another, earlier San Francisco Bay Area journalist, Ambrose Bierce, in his ever-relevant The Devil’s Dictionary. 

Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility. 

Corporations have sold us lung cancer, poisoned our water, polluted our soil and picked our pockets, all for the profit of their investors. They have corrupted our financial and reduced political systems, and they are reinstituting the feudal system, with a small hereditary aristocracy [thanks to the corporate-backed campaign against "death taxes"] and an indebted mass of serfs [the "service" in service economy has the same root as serf, the Latin servus, slave]. 

We have been witnessing the ultimate corporate malfeasance in the campaign against a public health insurance system, where those who would benefit the most from—dare I say it—socialized medicine have been propagandized into assuming the roles of its most strident opponents. Just look at the crowds at the Fox-sponsored tea parties. Older folks and blue collar workers have been brainwashed into believing that any proposal for a public health system is a plot against their freedom. They speak of the threat of “death panels,” yet fail to recognize that the panels already exist, but inside the offices of the very insurance companies they’ve been mobilized to support. 

The mass media [corporate, naturally] play to the controversy, granting vast amounts of air time to the manufactured controversy, while fewer people each day read the dwindling number of newspapers that devote significant space to considered accounts of the issues. At the same time, partisans of diverging views restrict themselves to partisan information source, fissuring the body politic and rendering the components more susceptible to manipulation, with the media relentlessly pushing the agenda that would hand the victory to the small group of the elite who have cornered an ever-larger portion of the wealth we have all created together. 

One last quote: 


The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere 

The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst 

Are full of passionate intensity. 

—William Butler Yeats 


Richard Brenneman’s blog may be found at