The right to free speech or the right to be outraged? It feels cathartic when we get express our outrage at what needs to be corrected, changed, addressed, expelled, justified and what have you. Why is that different from a kid throwing a tantrum? Perhaps education, information, a more evolved sense of compassion?
So next question is, do kids throw tantrums around people who they know don’t care about them? Countless times I have seen parents in public spaces have their kids look at me or someone else in an attempt to distract them from their tantrum. The kid may smile or change his behavior but I doubt it’s because they are sure they are now looking at someone who cares about them more than their parent whose lap their sitting in. I remember my mother doing that to me as little boy on the DC Metro and me looking at the stranger and thinking “Hmmm…I don’t know him…What kinda hair is that? Can I touch it?…What’s that smell? Why are they making that face?” but he or she probably thought “Cute baby!” – Fuck off! I WANT CHIPS.
I never got to make the last two statements. I usually just ended up staring at whatever my mother turned my attention to. The distraction works. But once we got off the train, did I forget about my desire for chips? I don’t think so. In fact, I began to get good at noticing my mother’s distractive tactics that I resolved to not have tantrums in public. I knew she would win those. I just waited till we got home where I had her all to myself…
My mother had a shelf dedicated to my potato chips. I think today they are of the UTZ brand. Still my fave chips of all time.
Point is, I somehow was very certain that my mother cared about me. I knew this before I could even compose logical thought through language. I entrusted her with my entire emotional gamut from affection to outrage because I KNEW my mother loved me immensely. I say this in retrospect not because I was the reincarnation of Machiavelli… That came much later.
But the point of this story is to take an allegorical look at the outrage that is expressed in order to address the social inequities and injustices that are permeating our daily lives, newsfeeds and airwaves. Are we assuming that the people on the other side of the equation care enough about us, as our parents would? Are we assuming that holding them in such contentious discomfort would get us what we want? I don’t know… I get a feeling, through all the marches, all the protests, all the news blog posts and rants, all the tweets… Are we expecting compassion from entities, individuals, systems that DO NOT SHARE OUR COMPASSION on what we feel is important. And if this were the case, would we still be co-opting the expression of outrage as an ally?
Outrage at injustice is an agent of change against a compassionate authority. When outrage ceases to work, compassion is either absent or tactfully submerged. While the topic of outrage changes, it doesn’t seem the elements causing the overall outrage are changing and now some of us are holding on to the right to be outraged as opposed to the commitment to actions that make change. The stranger on the train is smiling pretty bright. Problem is, we might not be sitting in our mother’s lap…
By Jude Anchang