Monday, February 13, 2012

A place for anger and bitterness

            Anger is not looked at too positively in our society. Bitterness is considered even worse. Activists, particularly indigenous rights activists or feminists, are sometimes called angry or bitter - and when they are, it's not a compliment.
            I agree that some activists are angry or bitter. But I don't see this necessarily as a bad thing. In fact, often it's that anger and bitterness that fuels their activism. It's that anger and bitterness that gives them the motivation to change things for the better.
            Anger and bitterness don't usually spring up from nowhere. They are cultivated when conditions are unjust or unfair - or at least perceived that way. I think there's a cry behind every angry or bitter person that says, 'this isn't the way the world was meant to be.'
            Now admittedly some people hold onto anger and bitterness when there really is no need for it. Their ideas of what's fair are heavily slanted to what they want. Often people see any bad treatment towards themselves as unfair, but fail to see how what they want would be unfair for someone else.
            But often it is warranted. Sometimes life really is unfair. It was unfair that people were captured and made slaves. It was unfair that people were treated as second-class citizens simply because of the colour of their skin. It was unfair that Europeans thought they could take the Australian Aboriginal peoples' land just because they wanted it and it wasn't being cultivated according to European ideas. It was unfair that women could not own their own property, go to university or vote.
            I could go on. Our history is filled with situations where people were treated unfairly.
            And where there are real situations of injustice, I believe anger is not only an acceptable response, but a desirable one.
            What's the alternative? We shrug our shoulders, say 'well life isn't fair' and continue on as we always have.
            Many of the situations listed above have been changed (even if they still might have some way to go before real justice is happening). And they weren't changed by apathetic people. They were changed by angry, maybe even bitter, people. And I say thank God for their anger and bitterness.
            While the situations above may have been changed, there are still many unjust conditions in the world. It is not fair that some of us get to live in luxury while people in other countries starve. It is not fair that people in western countries are conditioned to desire many "things", which neither they nor the earth can afford. It is not fair that we treat economic growth as more important than a healthy planet for future generations. It is not fair that our natural resources, the diversity of our plant and animal life and places of natural beauty are disappearing, so that those who come after us will not have the same opportunity to enjoy them as we do. It is not fair that our whole society seems to be centred on what we spend or buy, leaving those with little money feeling worthless. And it is not fair that, at the same time, the take-home pay of many people is getting less and less as companies seek to increase profit.
            Maybe I'm just bitter because I don't earn a lot. Maybe I'm just angry because this society fails to place the same value on nature as I do. Maybe I'm too busy dreaming of a better world that doesn't exist and I should just realise that this is the way life is and I better put up with it.
            I am angry. Truth be told, I'm even a little bitter. But I believe that anger and bitterness is telling me something. It's telling me that this may be the way the world is, but it's not the way it was meant to be.
            I am a woman. I vote, go to university and own my own house (even if it is mortgaged). We take all those things for granted now. But once upon a time, they were only a dream. Some people saw the way the world was and said that's not the way the world is meant to be. Maybe they were angry. Maybe they were bitter. But if it wasn't for their anger and bitterness, would they have even imagined a different world than the one they lived in? Or even if they did, would they have tried so hard to change things?
            Of course, just because someone is angry doesn't give them the excuse to act out their anger in a negative way. When we think angry, we often think violence (whether physical or verbal). And it is very easy, when we are angry or bitter, to act inappropriately. But anger can also be expressed in peaceful and loving ways. No matter how angry we are with people, we should still show them love and compassion.
            Some people have trouble accepting an angry God. They prefer the loving God to the angry one. But to me, a loving God has to be angry. How could a loving God see what we are doing and just not care? When faced with injustice, what other response is there but anger? A loving God cannot be apathetic or indifferent. And what exactly would a caring response look like if it didn't involve anger of some sort?
            Bitter, no. That's a human failing. But maybe we can use our bitterness to identify situations of injustice in our own world. And maybe we should learn to listen to other people's bitterness, instead of seeing it as something they just need to get rid of. And when we're angry, or other people are angry, maybe we should at least ask ourselves whether God might be angry too. Maybe the different world we imagine is not quite so impossible after all. Maybe the reason we think this isn't the way it should be is because it's not the way God wants it to be. He is just waiting for someone to get angry enough to do something about it. 

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