For those who take the moral high ground beware the seduction of righteous indignation. There is an adrenalin rush of extreme excitement when the feeling of rightness takes over those angered by great wrongs. The emotions are intensified as the anger rushes the blood through the veins as the righteous person feels a heightened superiority over those accused of low moral character and unethical behaviour. An anger that is justified by rightness can push this accuser over the edge and into a state of fanaticism urging them to act with more hatred then those who stand accused. Those that exercise righteous indignation condemning evil can often alienate and divide those around them through their powerful rage. Such militant activism filled with vitriolic passion can lead to great angst.
Behind the allure of righteous indignation stands a rigid system of thought deemed black and white thinking. I am right and you are wrong is a binary structure that is a conflictual stance inciting of division. It does not take into account the vast array of shades of grey not to mention the plethora of colour that defines our experiences. The polarisation of these two opposites defining modernist thought does not match and cannot speak of our world that shifts from postmodernism to a place beyond this post at an intense speed. I once wrote a paper where I examined an autobiography from five different perspectives. I looked through the lens of modernism, Derrida’s deconstructionism, Foucaldian power relations, my own personal subjectivity and scientific perspective. Each time I looked at the same situation through a different lens, the situation changed. Hence by limiting our thinking to just one perspective we miss so much learning and opportunities of creating new knowledge.
Righteous indignation visits us all. I believe that no human is completely exempt and at some stage in life it knocks at our hearts. However, this sublime feeling that elevates and distorts our senses is a danger zone. For all its seductiveness this feeling of rightness is (I believe) fear based and often comes from deep woundedness within our psyches. It is a wound that is reopened by a word, action or stand made by the targeted wrong doer (evil person?). Rage against this wrong doer can unfortunately lead to malicious attacks of the targeted evil and as a result can turn the righteous person or group into the darkness that they are attacking. A wise man once said…remove the beam out of your own eye before trying to remove the speck out of your brothers.
When there are dangers people often act one of two ways: – fight or flight. I believe there are many other ways people act in-between these two extremes. For example a third way can be to detach, observe and learn from the dangerous situation. The first half of 2011 has been of one world trauma followed by another world trauma and it has thrown us into a state post traumatic stress. There has not been time for us to heal and recover before moving onto the next devastation. My poetic prose pieces A Great Unease and A Permanent Tear was my attempt to come to terms with the trauma and damage on our sensitivity and humanity and a plea for humans to come together and support each other through these extreme conditions. Unfortunately an offshoot of this great unease I have seen that in fear, pain and unhealed trauma that factions and splits have occurred where one group of people turns and attacks another group of people. I feel great sadness over this conflict and hope that people will become more reflective and awaken their compassion before it is too late. The quickening has quickened and we need a tenacity of spirit and rigorous mind to stop this insanity and come together to discuss and collaborate creating new knowledge and new ways of co-existing. Remove the condemnation, resist the righteous indignation and see each other through the lens of compassionate reason. We are all connected and that is not only over the internet, it is also through our humanity. As one of my favourite Rush Bands sing: We need to put aside the alienation, get on with the fascination, a new relation the underlying theme. I see this fascination as our creativity and the underlying theme as our love.
I support social justice and fair treatment. My heart beats to a humanitarian song. But what I do not support is a righteous indignation that motivates the morally righteous to abuse and attack others. We can scream, we can shout out our pain, but a humble, still quiet voice with noble intent can speak louder and be received by others with far greater power. This voice is compassion and it is my plea and my hearts desire that we relearn and exercise our voices in this way. Not a raging hostile voice that is rigid and nailed down by dogma. For it is within this dogma, this extreme righteous indignation that we lose sight of our humanity and our sanity.
And humanity and sanity is what I am about.
© Anthea Slade 2011
by Anthea Slade 22 May 2011
Musing, thoughts and reflections about humanity, insanity and the dangers of righteous indignation.
Seduction of Righteous Indignation featured in All Out Emotion on 27 May 2011
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