Anger, politics and personal power

Photo by Erik

                       Photo by Erik

What does a contentious election season do to our psyche? What happens when we are mired in negativity all day because we can’t help but scroll through our social media feeds and watch colorful debates on television? What should a conscientious, aware and concerned citizen of a country and the world do when the airwaves are filled with hate, aggression and mudslinging? When the noise is too much to bear, do you simply tune it out?

Most people, myself included, find it easier to be observers of political contests than participants. Right now, sitting on the sidelines, letting thoughts and opinions marinate is more comfortable than engaging in heated online conversations about candidates and where they stand. This wasn’t always the case with me. I used to fight to the death in order to prove myself right, especially in areas of politics and religion. I loved the challenge of mental jousts and took pleasure in winning arguments, caring very little about the acrimony that rose because of such exercises. That side of me still comes out once in a while and there are times when I feel compelled to call it forth but, generally, it’s more beneficial for me to observe my own feelings and thoughts about what I see and hear.

This election season, however, is making it difficult for many to not make extreme opinions known, and for good reason. In the Philippines, there seems to be a growing movement to revise history by portraying a very dark and terrifying time in the country as its “golden age”. Add to that, certain candidates’ outrageous antics, statements and past record of eschewing human rights are largely ignored, all for the idea that an iron fist is what we need to set ourselves straight.

Are we going to even touch on what the Drumpf is happening in the United States? Let’s not.

What we can do is watch our reactions to the events around us. Do we respond more to anger than reason? My guess is we do, otherwise, hateful personalities spewing bile would not resonate with a large segment of society. On the other hand, would you rather not be bothered by all this crap and go about your own business because the world is a big dung heap anyway and there’s nothing to be done? Heatedness and apathy are extremes of the same spectrum. Staying on either side is dangerous for us as individuals and a collective.

We must constantly remind ourselves that our interior world reflects what is outside of us. The simple act of being aware of our anger would make us more resistant to the pull of the hate being peddled by those in the spotlight. This might sound overly simplistic but I believe it all comes down to the individual. If we check ourselves and feel our anger – whether it’s simmering existential angst or one caused by circumstance – we can allow ourselves to pause and ponder on the choices we make for our lives and those of others.

It is our anger and frustration that gets tapped by power-hungry manipulators who are given microphones and stand in front of cameras. Imagine, though, if we collectively see that we deserve true peace, prosperity and order through integrity, honesty and the genuine desire to serve. Perhaps, one day, we will give rise to leaders who will bring these about.

Yes, it sounds too simple. Maybe I’m being naïve. But I would rather be that than get sucked into the vortex of hate I see around me. I have enough anger in me that could take a lifetime to purge but I’m aware of it. I know what it is doing to me as a person and global citizen and I don’t like it. There was a time in my life when anger fueled my every move and it was in those moments that I spewed out hate myself and got carried away by aggressive agenda that did not serve me in the long run.

Anger is a natural emotion and it is healthy to have. It spurs us to action, to right wrongs, to change ourselves, to leave bitter situations that could bury us. If left unchecked, however, it makes us vulnerable to the manipulative tactics of others or even our own egoic desires.

The two most compelling political personalities of our time are Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Both only spoke of love, dignity and unification, not divisiveness, force and exclusion. Look at what they were able to manifest in the world. If we as individuals know what we deserve and what we are capable of, we would resonate with the likes of them. May it happen in our lifetime.

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