Gary*, a friend of mine, posted in his blog the other day that “We have a culture of outrage”. He said more, but this phrase stuck with me because of how apt it is for our world. Not only do we participate in outrage, but our major media outlets are less about reporting news and more about expressing outrage. Our national language, especially in the political sphere seems to have become outrage.
In case you didn’t read the link above, Gary also said “Active cynicism is outrage.” Cynicism can be defined as distrustful of human nature or motives. The link between cynicism and outrage is pretty clear in this context. We are outraged because of whatever the controversy du jour happens to be, we presume or are told by “expert” newsmen (aka spin doctors) what the motives of the other party is. Nevermind that no one has taken time to actually talk to the other party, we know their motives must be evil and we don’t trust them. And we are outraged!
Gary called outrage “a lazy emotion that lacks the ability for change.” He’s right. When we presume to know the motives of others without even speaking to them, that’s lazy. Further it prevents anything from changing because we simply vilify this enemy to our position meaning any discussion with them to actually resolve the conflict is considered consorting with the enemy; impossible. Nevermind that our “enemy” has a vastly different concern than we have attributed to them. We know their motives must be evil and we don’t trust them. And we are outraged!
I say we knowingly and willingly. I am so very guilty of buying into the whole culture of outrage. I confess to cynical attitudes far too often. I know it isn’t exactly what my friend intended with his comments, but I am convicted to the part I play in perpetuating this culture of outrage. But I want to do different, I want to be different. Surely there is a middle ground between gullible and cynic. I know there must be because, while I do often distrust human nature or motives, I also know that humans are capable of some of the most amazing things. I’ve seen those also.
This video came across Facebook the other day. I don’t know the people who did this. I don’t know the waitress. Are the humans to be distrustful of? I don’t know. What I do know is that the video made me feel great. Actually it made me want to do that, to just give to people. I’m not rich enough to do that for a living (Gary, I know, if I get my dream job, I may never be that rich). But I want to see people happy. People are beautiful, especially when they are happy.
I know this is much “gushier” than I generally get. And I know that throwing money at people and problems will not make them go away. But I also know that we are capable of so much more than the sickening culture of outrage in which we’ve found ourselves. So tonight and over the next week or month, just keep your eyes opened. As you watch the news or read articles on-line, ask yourself what the intent of the article is. Are they trying to get you outraged? What are they actively doing? Disparaging the opposing group or trying to work towards common ground and mutual respect (if not agreement).
My suspicion is that more often, we are fed marketed outrage to become another notch in someone’s views or ratings. We are pushed toward the laziness of outrage in order to line someone’s pocked with more dollars. Yeah, there goes my inherent cynicism again. And while I do agree with Gary about our culture of lazy outrage, I think maybe, just maybe, if we opened our eyes to what was really happening around us, we might find we are outraged at the wrong people. Maybe, just maybe, we should be outraged at those taking advantage of us. Then, maybe, we could stop being lazily outraged, and move to do something to sincerely fix the problem. Just maybe.
(* – My friend Gary runs a game store in California. So he has my dream job, sort of. If you are anywhere near him you should give him some business. Tell him I sent you when you do.)