Thursday, June 3, 2010

"I'm as mad as Hell..."

In the 1976 film, Network, anchorman Howard Beale goes off on one of the all-time great rants, calling his viewers to throw open the windows and shout, "I'm as mad as Hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!" Then says Beale, the solutions to all our problems will emerge.

I couldn't avoid thinking of this movie after watching a speech by Joanna Macy last night. Macy is a famed Buddhist scholar, environmental activist, and graduate of Wellesley (I know, Megan...friends don't let friends go to Wellesley.) In her speech at the 2009 Bioneers event, Macy went on a rant of her own, accompanied by video images of the birds fish and mammals placed at risk by human activity. She urged her audience to get angry at this horrible devastation (even before BP's Deep Horizon mega-disaster), that the solution to all our problems might emerge. From our anger.

Macy was clear in identifying where the problem was centered: Them, and who serves as the allies of life and all that is sacred: Us. How original. How helpful.

My problem was that I couldn't listen to Joanna Macy, a writer I have admired, without also hearing Sarah Palin, who I can't stomach. The "Tea Party" is a Howard Beale-esque, mad-as-Hell movement. Terrorism springs from the same source. "I'm as mad as Hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore." Actions often follows this exclamation, but are rarely characterized as solutions to anything.

So let's talk. More so, let's listen. Let's try to understand the perspectives, opinions and feelings of others before they feel compelled to throw open the windows and scream. Let's do what we can to resist anger's siren call. Will remaining calm make everything better? Of course not, but at least it won't make things worse.

I'm sorry, Dr. Macy, but your call to heated emotions and expressions left me cold.

1 comment:

  1. I think some of this is true for some situations, but not all. If you're talking about human organizations, talking and listening is the most important. Attempts to cut through this process with decision making by a few will leave people frustrated and marginalized.

    However, I cannot say that I have not been angry about the environmental devastation caused human activities. The important thing to recognize about the angry is that it should motivate change and not blame. Anger can spur change from the status quo by raising public awareness and support, but I think it shouldn't be directed toward a nameless faceless THEM which accomplishes nothing. If nothing else, grad school has taught me that if I want something done, I have to do it myself, or find someone who knows how to help me do it. Change comes from you.