It ranks with “unprecedented” and “you’re muted” to conjure up the past year or two. When have we seen so much outrage in so many spheres of public life? Party A, outraged, declares Party B’s words or deeds an outrage and responds in a way that outrages Party B. It’s an outrage perpetual motion machine.
Originally unrelated to rage, the word outrage comes from Latin ultra (“beyond”). An outrageous act goes beyond acceptable bounds. The outraged seek allies. Their righteous anger is contagious.
What makes a feeling of outrage so addictive? Is it the rush of adrenalin, the ego-boost of moral certitude, the sense of belonging in a group bound by shared passion? I don’t personally enjoy it, so I can only guess.
At its best, outrage generates action to right a grave injustice. Some exploit it to increase ratings or social media "likes." Among its dangers is a moral absolutism that wipes out any sense of proportion. To be certain of one’s innocence leaves no room for humility. Opponents seem scarcely human. Having God on your side makes any compromise a deal with the Devil.
Image: New York City draft riots of 1863.
CHARLDA L THOMPSON
10/27/2021 01:35:05 pm
I have felt some outrage over recent events like Joe Manchin not wanting to approve a bill that includes more positive actions re climate change. Also, I feel a similar angst over anti-vaxers. However, I try to share those concerns with friends, even write a letter, and breathe. Otherwise, It's I can see how such feelings could escalate into rage and moral certitude.
10/27/2021 03:46:50 pm
Charlda, it sound as though you have found constructive ways to experience and express your outrage without escalating or dehumanizing anyone. Would that more of us could achieve that balance.
Beth Eliot Genne
11/1/2021 05:40:32 pm
This is an especially timely message -- and an important one to think about. My meditation leader would always say "anger is the second emotion" we need to explore the first emotion which provokes the outrage response -- fear and shame are high on my list. .
11/1/2021 08:56:56 pm
Beth, thought-provoking in relation to the current outrage that seems rampant all around us. Is it grow out of an underlying emotion such as fear? The times are so uncertain, the changes so quick, the future so unpredictable. Unfortunately, I suspect the higher the outrage, the more it can blind us from looking beyond the object of our anger to identify the underlying emotion.
11/2/2021 07:28:08 pm
I believe that each person has a unique sense of reality and we believe in our deepest hearts that what we believe is The Truth. Otherwise - how could we function? So when confronted with a very much different world view, we naturally leap to defend The Truth. We cannot understand how others are not able to see what is so clear to us. And of course, others have arrived at their world view as innocently as we have. So Outrage rears its head as we - and they - fly to the defense of Truth. And Blame adds fire to Outrage - that some beliefs are evilly begotten. It helps me to remember that beliefs are the children of biology, environment and life. Perceptions enter our brains and percolate at the unconscious level and emerge as beliefs. There is no blame, here. While we find that outcomes of some beliefs to be damaging, there is nothing to gain by disparaging persons for their beliefs. Deep listening and radical love are more useful.
11/2/2021 08:25:44 pm
Marti, I fully agree. Deep listening and radical love are far more useful, and also more difficult than argument and blame. What does it mean to believe something if not to think it is true and conflicting beliefs are false? It's easy to disparage confirmation bias, but we couldn't live without it. I suspect that, in addition to blame, feeling insecure in a belief can add fuel to outrage if one feels threatened and the defenses go up.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.