Race or Rage?

When I looked at the cover of the latest edition of the Economist the other day, the illustration held a large single word, in a black and white pattern, which I initially read as “Rage,” along with a few other words saying it was the new ideology and that there was something wrong with it.

My first thought was that rage was definitely a real problem here in the United States, but belatedly I realized that that large single word was “Race.”

In fact, both rage and race are huge problems in the U.S. and, for the most part, from what I see, the people who are the most opposed to resolving the issues around race are largely the same ones who are showing the most rage, although there are also those extremists on the left who also carry a fair amount of rage.

When employees of stores are assaulted and in some cases killed for requiring customers to wear masks, it’s more than an issue of public health. Nor is it a question of civil rights, because everyone is being required to wear a mask, but rage at having to comply with a standard they see, not as a public health measure, but as a restriction on their ability to go where they want to do dressed the way they want to dress. In short, they don’t give a damn about the health of others.

Those who loot out of rage in demonstrations about race aren’t addressing the lack of civil rights, but committing a crime under the cover of civil rights. They also don’t give a damn about others.

Where I live there’s a great deal of anger against the restrictions required to combat Covid-19, yet we’ve never had the absolute lock-downs required elsewhere. Not surprisingly, case numbers are climbing here, yet the opposition to masks and social distancing is also rising. The Mothers Against Masks broke into a school board meeting the other day, opposing any mask requirements for their children in education. I still can’t understand their rationale. Yes, children are less vulnerable, but they’re far from invulnerable, and they can certainly carry the virus to others more vulnerable.

At the same time, governors – and the President – have been reluctant to mandate masks, again I believe, because of the rage and anger it creates.

Minorities are vulnerable to economic and social discrimination that makes it more difficult for them to improve their lives, but when they protest, it’s often in anger against injustice, and it is a form of rage against long-standing unfairness. Yet their rage and the reasons for that rage have been largely ignored for generations. At the same time, blind rage against that continuing oppression just strengthens those who oppose social change.

Rage against oppression is at least understandable, if misguided, because seldom are those who suffer the effects of riots and looting the ones responsible for continuing oppression. Rage against public health standards is another matter, particularly since it’s self-centered and indulgent, badly rationalized, and, in the end, hurts everyone, particularly the vulnerable, especially poor minorities.

In either case, rage doesn’t fix public health or oppression.

6 thoughts on “Race or Rage?”

  1. Tom says:

    I try to imagine myself as a county commissioner, city councilor. congress person etc. in 2020. Herding cats would be less dangerous and more successful!

    Your experience of 20 some years in government was at a time of relative upheaval as well. Was it as frustrating to deal with the constituents/electorate as it is now? Were we this stupid then(but in a different direction)?

    Most importantly; was there and is there a solution?

    1. There’s always been a “stupid” segment of the electorate, generally composed of people whose views are a variance with proven and verified facts and in whom parochial self-interest is paramount, to the exclusion of any facts that contradict their beliefs. Most, but not all of them, that I’ve encountered in the past fifty years have tended to be Republicans or Libertarians. The “stupidity” of Democrats is that too many of them attempt to carry good ideas to impractical and unworkable ends and they too often get hung up on matters that likely wouldn’t be issues if they concentrated on the basics — like eliminating wage and legal inequality on the basis of anything, whether it’s gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, or insisting on a true living wage for all workers. As has been noted elsewhere, if McDonald’s can pay $20/hour in Denmark, why is it such a problem to pay $15.00/ hour in the U.S., especially since the value of the minimum wage has actually fallen almost 30% since 1968 [amazing how the corporate/business sector has used inflation to justify higher CEO pay while effectively increasing the minimum wage so little that it doesn’t keep up with inflation]?

      1. Tom says:

        “There’s always been a “stupid” segment of the electorate, generally composed of people whose views are a variance with proven and verified facts and in whom parochial self-interest is paramount, to the exclusion of any facts that contradict their beliefs…”

        I was wondering if the percentage of extremists per group within the general population is greater now then it was in the 1960’s 1970’s and even the 1980’s?

        Is the total percentage of the general population who hold views at variance with facts despite evidence to the contrary, greater now than in the past, in the US?

        1. I doubt that the percentage has changed. What has changed is that the internet, and its ease of access, has allowed them to organize and circumvent the “gatekeepers” of previous times. There’s literally no check on the circulation of falsehoods, and when someone tries to point out such falsehoods, those who believe in those falsehoods are reinforced by other believers in ways never possible before, and, more and more often, what is verified and accurate is labeled as “fake news.” What’s also been overlooked is that societies need “gatekeepers,” those who are honest, knowledgeable, respected and listened to. Today, most people only respect fame and influence. Learning isn’t respected, except insofar as it provides paper credentials to allow the credentialed access to higher-earning professions.

          1. Tom says:

            Fame and influence do not a role-model make. Age is also not an important factor although experience is to some extent. People who wish to lead should act as our role-models (however difficult that may be for them).

            My wife, the teacher, would agree that education would/should solve our societal problems (she emphasizes comprehension, analysis, and communication; even though she taught the sciences). I agree that people do not respect expertise – somehow quality is trumped by quantity and speed.

            Editing a paper is easier than editing a conversation, particularly a conversation where the participants are not face to face or are so only virtually. The EU seems to be on a better track than US with regard to protection of virtual information but neither has put teeth into assuring quality of content in the social media.

            People forget the difference between changing a person’s mind (argument) and clarifying a subject with the help of another point of view (discussion). However, changing a person’s mind becomes important in order to protect oneself or another human (here we need to recall Aristotle’s advice about being angry).

  2. Tim says:

    Here in the UK, from Monday 24th masks are required by law in shops (but not public places yet).

    Masks on public transport has been a requirement for a few weeks as social distancing is not possible. I have not seen any annoyance reported.

    However, on wearing masks in shops I am now experiencing a rising sense of anger in the people I meet. But I live in a rural village and visit the nearest town in the evening when there are no queues. So I only interact with people who are currently unaffected with only one person I meet actually knowing of someone who has had the virus (and who died at 51).

    That is where the latent anger lies I feel: those who are currently unaffected.

    I suspect it was different here in 1349 when the Black Death arrived.

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