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Letter: Anger can bring about change; hate too often just kills

A man pauses at a memorial for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Oct. 4. Stephen Paddock opened fire on an outdoor music concert on Oct. 1, killing dozens and injuring hundreds.
A man pauses at a memorial for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Oct. 4. Stephen Paddock opened fire on an outdoor music concert on Oct. 1, killing dozens and injuring hundreds.

“Look Back in Anger,” a play by John Osborne, was first performed in 1956. The setting is post-war — and post-imperial — Britain and the struggle of the working class to share in the prosperity and power. It is about a young man who feels disillusioned, alienated and left out. The play expresses the frustration and rage of the lower classes who find life empty, meaningless and unsatisfied.

The term “angry young men” refers to a group of British writers — Osborne among them — in the 1950s. They railed against the hypocrisy, mediocrity, and status quo of the Establishment as they saw it.

Expressing anger through words alone is a relatively mild form of protest against injustice, although it is not ineffective. In his book “Age of Anger: A History of the Present,” Pankaj Mishra identifies more violent and extreme forms of anger and traces contemporary versions back to the 18th-century Enlightenment rooted in rationalism, humanism, universalism and liberal democracy. This has led to globalization, individualism, capitalism and secularism. Modernity claims to offer freedom, stability and prosperity to everyone.

While we, in the West, have benefited from this legacy, much of the world has been left out. Their worldview is different and leaves them feeling rootless, marginalized, disillusioned and powerless. There is a climate of hopelessness and helplessness, which is exasperated by racism, misogyny, nationalism, prejudices, intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia. Some also hark back to a Golden Age — “make America great again” — and look for a messiah to fix everything. The response to some to all this are extreme acts of violence.

Those who feel left out and excluded will often respond in anger. Anger can be used to bring change, and this change can come about through violent or peaceful means. We constantly hear about the violence but little about the efforts to effect change in non-violent ways. Two examples of achieving change by peaceful means are movements led by Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Another powerful force causing acts of violence is hate. This is seen in attempts at genocide. In the last hundred years, history has recorded the horrors of the Holocaust, the slaughter of Armenians and the Rwanda killings. More recently, it was the death of 49 people in a gay nightclub in Florida, and then the killing of 59 and the injuring of hundreds more in Las Vegas. Today we are also witnessing the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Why do we hate each other simply based on race, religion, gender and the other ways we differ? 

There is no full or final explanation of this or any form of human behaviour, but any effort to understand our complex and complicated world may help in the pursuit of answers and resolutions. 

 

Everett Hobbs
Conception Bay South

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