Why is everyone so angry ? Why is grim survivalism the current zeitgeist? To quote a leader in the Financial Times a few years ago, it might be that “The ‘nice’ decade – for Non-Inflationary Continuous Expansion – is behind us”. In other words we, in the West, are entering a nasty period where economic anxiety is becoming a catalyst for all kinds of attitudinal and behavioural shifts.
For example, the real issue might not be peoples’ anger per se but the increasing number of people and events that provoke the anger that lies under the surface. This can range from traffic jams and bad customer service to falling house prices, increasing food and energy costs and the economic rise of the BRICs. If the economy really turns sour people in places like London and New York will be screaming for protection from the likes of Dubai and Moscow. In other words, economic issues will bring nationalist attitudes to the fore much in the same way that racism and patriotism grew during the 1930s depression.
You can see this anger already in the form of ‘Wrath Lit’ on the shelves of your local bookstore (OK, those have gone so try Amazon). But is the world really getting more angry or is it simply that the likes of camera phones and YouTube are making more of us aware of incidences of anger?
Put slightly differently, the way to create an epidemic of something like anger is simply to use the word in politics or the media. Another explanation for the rage trend is that in many societies anger is a badge of honour. It is seen as a virtue. It is the individual being true to themselves and expressing their feelings. Well bottle it up buddy because you are making the rest of us anxious.
In closing it is probably worth mentioning Elizabeth Kuber-Ross’s five point model of how people deal with death. Stage 1 is disbelief, stage 2 is yearning, stage 3 is anger, stage 4 is depression and stage 5 is acceptance. Is it possible that societally (in the West) we are looking at what we think is an abyss (i.e. economic recession, global warming, the rise of China and so on) and are reacting in exactly the same way as if we were facing terminal illness or the death of a loved one. We are currently in the collective anger stage, falling into depression.
But soon we will adjust and accept whatever the new normal is.