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Rage

  I used to be angry a lot, and I used to blame it on being a teenager. Or just being young and stupid in general. Because I happened to be those two things, too.

  I hated people because they were mean to me. And when they weren’t mean to me, I hated them because they were cruel to others. Or they didn’t realize how something so obviously in their own interest was being squandered due to their inherent stupidity. It was the kind of self-important rage that inflicts so many in the rebellious years, that fiery kind of revolutionary mentality that makes people behave like they’re the only people to have read Marx’s The Communist Manifesto or Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

  Suffice it to say, I never gave much thought to this kind of rage. As I grew older (he said in his twilight years of thirty), the anger gave way to exasperation. I realized how much people were dominated by their fear and anger, that much of their revolutionary rhetoric could be boiled down to an attempt to control their world.

  Predictable.

  Safe.

  Restricted.

  Rage is destructive. It is also painfully limiting. Fury can lead to violent change that seemingly benefits the one who uses it. But the anger can’t leave if there is to be an earnest attempt at maintaining power. Once used as a solution, it guarantees that the next solution must be equally wrathful, lest the attempt for control falter. The angry one must violently punish disagreement and leaves no room for discussion.

  Discussion, so we are told, is for the weak.

  They can try to hide it behind pseudo-intellectualism, but rhetoricians and laymen alike talk their way toward violent demonstrations or revolutions as the only means of affecting change. The other day I saw a man with a shirt that boldly declared “You can have my guns bullets first.” Someone on my Facebook wall routinely posts articles from leftist websites declaring the inevitability of a (sometimes presumed, sometimes explicitly) violent worker’s revolution.

  These are the people that we let dominate the conversation.

  Whether it’s because we hate ourselves as a species or a crippling need for superiority, we let those with the most extravagantly violent ideas take the podium. We let them dominate our news coverage, letting them speak for large swaths of individuals who—on any given day—are calm, polite people who would much rather not violently murder those who disagree with them. And then we tut-tut those bombastic shitheads, put all “those people” in the same camp, and go on our merry ways.

  Then we inundate ourselves with images and sounds and texts that support the notion that might makes right. That blind rage will see the day through and emerge victorious. Might makes right, only for it to inevitably have to make right again. And again. Ad infinitum, until inevitably one might falters to be replaced by a bigger, angrier might.

  Some of you may think this is hypocritical, as I have written some things that seem to follow the same general tune. And you would be right. I write things to be entertaining, and we as a culture find violence entertaining. I am very much so a product of my culture, and the best I can do at the moment is undercut it subtly. Make the protagonist suffer when violence is used. Make them an alienated part of the society they secretly long to be a part of. Emphasize the inevitable cycle of violence, that ending one war guarantees another down the line.

  But, as anyone with half a brain can tell you, intent and consumption are two very different things.

  I’m not advocating censorship or anything of the like. I’ve never been of the mentality that ignoring something that exists is the only way to stop it. Evidence also bears with me on this. For instance, abstinence-only education is an outrageously pathetic attempt to stop human beings from being human beings by merely pretending that sex isn’t a thing that most of us are biologically hard-wired to want. What I am suggesting is that we actually talk about our fetishistic obsession with violence. Why is it that violence, even theoretical violence, is our go-to problem solver?

  As I pointed out earlier, this isn’t a right-wing/left-wing binary. The loudest idiots on both sides advocate (or at least pay lip service) to the idea of straight-up murdering people as an answer to their problems. Ignoring the fact that the people they are fantasizing about offing are represented by a government with infinity-percent more tanks than those kill-happy idiots happen to own, they are callously ignoring the human cost. That person you’re gleefully nursing a murder-boner for may have a family that depends on him or her.

  That dehumanization is critical to this mentality. It’s infinitely harder to kill people when you see them as people. Keep them monstrous or otherworldly, and they are objects to be bent to your will. Look them in the eye, understand their position, and you risk empathy.

  It should come as no surprise that the reason I wrote this piece is because of that miserable piece of shit who killed a bunch of people because women wouldn’t sleep with him. Almost certainly, there are pundits and other morons who have theorized that “if only the victims had guns” it could have been prevented. And then there are the people who will hide behind the “he was mentally ill” card so they don’t have to give it one iota more thought than they have to.

  Others have pointed out that the general discussion has missed the bigger issue: that of systemic and cultural misogyny. This seems like a massive oversight, considering the videos of himself that the guy posted pretty explicitly show his rage at women and not having the “college experience” of debauchery. No matter how we shake this down, the perpetrator in question felt that he was owed sex by the women around him. Denied this, he felt that he was justified in violently asserting himself on those around him.

  I cannot comprehend that rage. As I said, I spent a long time in my youth being angry at stupid shit. But even when I was angry at an ex, the thought of physical harm never crossed my mind. And there was absolutely no point when I was furious at someone for unrequited affection. Maybe it’s because I saw women as people, but I don’t understand how you could just hate so much that you feel your only recourse is murder. Or, in other cases, I don’t understand how you could praise his actions.

  I try to keep things light and fluffy on my blog, because the world is harsh and terrifying. In the last semester, every class I taught had at least one “lose faith in humanity” moment, and trying to keep a positive mood can be tough. The blog helped even me out. A morbid sense of humor also kind of played a key role in note falling into despair.

  At the same time, though, I needed to write this, if only because I needed to work things through in slightly cleaner fashion than my jumbled brain. I’ve spent the last several nights sleeplessly trying to parse my mangled thoughts into something approaching coherence. Part of it is my role as an educator and tutor. I’ve worked with a diverse range of students, and it’s harrowing to know that any of them could be victimized purely because of who they are. Although a lot of them will probably forget me (or already have), I would never wish anything bad to happen to them.

  My class focuses a light on a lot of the bullshit that gets shoveled down our throats from a cultural perspective. And no matter what, I’m going to have to tackle this event in my class next semester. I don’t worry that I will be unable to cover it with the appropriate gravitas or that my own safety will be compromised. What I worry about is my students leaving that class to return to a world where we’ve come to normalize violence as a means to any end, no matter how petty.

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