It made us sick. Made people we loved poor and lonely and dead. But still we nurtured it, we worshipped it. It stopped us from creating and it stopped us from collaborating. We stopped believing we could be healed and we danced through the dark shadows of it’s fires.
Anger. What did the word conjure up for me? It sounded different then. It didn’t sound like weakness. I remember the feeling. Fire in my eyes, I suppose. A deceptively clear sense of purpose. Blood up and ready to, what, throw my hurt a little further?
I don’t like to think about it. The word for me conjures up feelings of loneliness. A drumbeat that recruited my whole body and mind to the message, the call of worthlessness. A demagogue that personalised it’s sermons to my circumstances, that showed me my hurt and used it to justify hurting others. Anger, like hurt, needed me to survive. It said ‘Do this and you will be free’. Anger was a lie.
Yes, anger was a spirit that needed our bodies to survive. It needed our permission to enter but once there it would possess or colleagues, our friends, our family, a stranger on the street. It would distract us long enough for a punch or an ill-considered word and then it used our names as leverage to summon every spirit it knew to every body it found. It whispered demonic words about pride and the worthlessness of others. In this way anger ran governments. In this way the fates of nations were decided. The system stayed stable so long as anger stayed hidden: you could never be angry at anger.
Then suddenly there was forgiveness. At first, dictators called it terrorism; no more hatred of other states to keep them in power. It began as an experiment then gradually became a way of life. Tolerance replaced fear and, rowdy and impatient for real change, love replaced tolerance. Religion wasn’t an excuse for violence; religious politicians refused to vote for any law that left the world as broken as it was or blessed themselves more than others. We sold our weapons in order to fight poverty – a pitchfork for a ploughshare. The security of nations depended not upon destruction but mutually assured compassion.
Love at great cost, grace with no price. I am old enough to remember it. No transition – just chaos. The old order gone – beautiful, beautiful chaos. All of this started from just one act.
There were skeptics. Maybe somewhere there still are. Secret labs in remote locations with luddites working in candlelight trying to find something – anything – that anger can do better than grace.
Now we have a statue in the palace of our government called Anger, depicting a bellowing old man with a knife in his side. One hand raised in a fist, the other holding the knife in. He stands in the middle of the gardens with his back to the sun. Every day groups of children come to see the statue and their teachers ask them the same questions – where is wisdom in the picture? Does the man look happy? How can we help him?
By the statue sits a plaque and on that plaque are written a list of grievances in capital letters, each of them scored out. At the end of the list are the words: Anger is hate. And hatred is never the start of something.