On becoming a gentle angry (older) man

Contrary to common belief, ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand to avoid threats. When they are vulnerable, ostriches will run away, yet they can cause serious injury and death with kicks from their powerful legs. Whether or not they are angry at these times is open to conjecture; fear most likely. In any event, I can often find a line or three from my mentors, the Beatles, that hints at my latest raving; namely – ‘Me used to be angry young man, me hiding me head in the sand’. Or so the song ‘Getting Better’ from 1967, written by Paul McCartney, for ‘The Fab Four’ went. The trouble is things aren’t getting better at all. In fact, as John Lennon noted as a rejoinder in the same song – ‘It can’t get no worse’.

There are times when I too Look Back in Anger, for indeed I am an angry ‘young’ man. Of course this is now an allegorical title, for I am now at the same age when John Osborne (the author of the play) left this life. Had I been one of the Twelve Angry Men, it is doubtful that I would have had the courage to speak up for the accused man; I am an angry coward. Furthermore, I am not disposed to Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I have no inclination towards gender realignment and genital mutilation. Really, it just makes you angry that such a subject is the premise for a musical! Having said that I did see a preview production of the show at the Clarendon in Katoomba, starring iOTA (his spelling). There is, however, a wall that I perceive between the ‘real’ worlds and the purgatory that inhabits my consciousness. But I really don’t need to resort to Anger Management, and Charlie Sheen or Jack Nicholson are most definitely not the therapists that I would seek out. These days my outward anger is more of a gentler type.

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But why? You’d imagine that given the appalling situation in the Middle East; the fact that the gap between the Super-rich and the rest of us is actually increasing; and that the devastating effects of climate change seem to be largely ignored (major ostrich effect in play here); that I would be very angry indeed. The unpalatable truth is I don’t give a rodent’s posterior. Not any longer anyway and perhaps this a symptom of my age or perhaps a bleak realisation that whatever I do or say doesn’t make one iOTA of difference. Incidentally, besides being an extremely small amount, iota is the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet. And as the most famous Greek of all, Aristotle once said:

‘Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy’.

The conclusion to be drawn here is that ‘correct’ anger is virtually impossible and therefore futile. Hang on Aristotle! Whilst I agree in principle, it still leaves me with plenty of scope to be angry about the small stuff. I’ve just watched the Agony programme on the ABC discussing the pros and cons of sending your children to private or public schools. The views of one old stalwart of the Liberal party made me very angry indeed. Even if I agreed with him – I’d protest. So apparently…I’m still not immune! No…keep calm, I’m younger than he is so in theory he should die before me – ah, that’s a relief!

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I’d hasten to add that I wouldn’t do gratuitous violence to this man. I think the most serious punishment to inflict on another is indifference. To illustrate this I offer you the old joke of what did the sadist do to the masochist? Answer: nothing. Ergo…why allow this blowhard to air his views publically? I’ve seen him also on Q and A. It begs the question: What’s the matter, have the ABC run out of human beings? The larger picture is, of course, that this is a country of free speech. And as our illustrious Attorney General pointed out: ‘people have the right to be bigots.’ Although, the proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act died a natural death, much to the chagrin of a certain Mr Bolt. A commentator who believes himself to be neutral, but is in fact to the far right of Genghis Khan.

Buddha said, ‘Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned’. Beautifully put, although as an unknown member of the Mafia once remarked, ‘Revenge is a dish that is best eaten cold’. I’m probably mixing metaphors or bemoaning storage of metadata, or something – but…who cares? I could rave and rant about back pain, loss of pension benefits, my neighbour’s overhanging trees, declining virility, why people don’t put on their driving lights in the fog, my thinning hair, the decline of music, the proliferation of tattoos…no one listens. Best to be an ostrich.

Tell us, do you find yourself being more easily angered than you used to be?