Fury, anger, rage. Whenever life seems to settle down, some new event sets off fresh tirades. Apart from letting off steam, are tirades of any use? Can a rant help change the world?
By temperament I shy away from rants, until I erupt with one of my own. Rants tend to drag on and on in circles, long past the initial need to vent. They rarely persuade anyone who doesn’t already agree. In fact, they’re likely to leave dissenters more entrenched in their dissent. Quiet stories from personal experience may carry more influence. I’m tempted to say, enough already, ranting doesn’t help. Let’s talk solutions or move on.
Yet I have to admit it’s more complicated than that. The value of a rant (if you share its viewpoint, or the danger if you don’t) lies in its power to bind and energize. It affirms like-minded listeners with a sense of rightness, community, belonging. It can stir a group to action.
When you feel an irresistible urge to rant, steer clear of dissenters and undecideds until the urge passes. With allies, rant at will, if your strategic purpose is to inflame the crowd. If you just need to get your fury off your chest, best do so with a calm, patient, trusted friend who will listen till it eases. Till you’re ready to talk solutions or move on.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.