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Red Lenses

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What makes you angry?

Seriously. What does it take to get you riled up these days? Yes, I’m talking to you.

Does the Darfur genocide quicken your pulse? Does a $700 billion robbery of the US treasury do it? (With no direct help for consumers, and no punishment for the culprits) How about a vice-presidential nominee who cynically refuses to answer questions at the debate, and some find her intransigence strangely endearing? Go Barracuda, go! Does Matt Drudge piss you off with his shameless hard-right-wing agenda setting for the news cycle? How about arctic permafrost methane release which could lead to irreversible and extinctive planetary warming? Worried about 3,836 children dying right now, every day of diseases which could be prevented for $30? Are you upset or even vaguely concerned with reports that say a billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water? Does it infuriate you that the U.S. still doesn’t have an energy policy friendly to renewables while we spend untold billions in Iraq on a war to defend an oil supply we shouldn’t even need? Does it raise your blood pressure to contemplate that since 1973, we’ve never been closer to the overturn of one of the pillars of modern women’s rights–Roe v. Wade?

As what has become the salient political product of the 2000’s, this apathy-assisted-greed-fueled war on reality is nothing short of a direct affront to the notion of civilization.

Personally, in the face of it, sometimes I just gotta say FUCK YOU!!! Not, "My opponent is incorrect, and I respectfully disagree." FUCK YOU is the only response that will do in the face of such epic malfeasance, such self-serving, larcenous, mass-anesthetized "I don’t give a shit" dished out on a plate. Sure, speak truth to power and all that jazz. Truth is helpful. Facts have been in very short supply. But it’s anger that gets things done.

Anger is what makes people "throw the bastards out" when things are going badly. It’s why politicians fear nothing more than a sagging economy. The patricians seem to be able to spin anything else to their advantage in their relentless government-corporate gang bang. But when people are losing jobs and going broke, the party in power nearly always suffers. That is, unless they can abuse the full faith and credit of the U.S. government to engineer a series of desperation maneuvers, like "stimulus checks" and Wall Street "bailouts." We only have to wait about a month to see if their latest gambit worked.

American history is filled with expressions of rage ("righteous indignation" for those who can’t stomach the real word). Let’s start with the Boston Tea Party. About 8,000 colonist protestors, led by the "Sons of Liberty" (our thugs, but still thugs) destroyed British property (worth $2 million in today’s dollars) out of anger. They did not say "kind sirs, with deepest apologies, we would most assuredly like to beg to differ with your tax policy." No they said FUCK YOU, and threw the tea into the ocean.

When John Adams was president, as dramatized in the recent Emmy-winning HBO series, criticism and rage toward him were brutal. The rhetoric published in the papers of the day would make modern commentators’ hair curl. But the tolerance of raucous and angry dissent was as vital then as it is now to democracy.

Other than venting spleen, what’s my point? To address what has been one of the most enduring criticisms I’ve heard from readers. Over seven years of writing this journal, I’ve been told I’m "angry," that BSJ is "negative," or "extremist" in some way. That I should "tone it down." That "anger never changes people’s minds." That I’m "preaching to the choir."

An example:

…[your] language borders on the abusive and I do not think that it is helpful for anyone except maybe to entertain the people who already agree with you. It certainly doesn’t change minds. –reader correspondence

In keeping with my desire to explore my own shortcomings and see if there’s something to be learned and improved, I’ve decided to publicly ask myself that question. Does my anger help or hurt my goals?

To answer this question, we must consider that some things are worse than rage. We must gird up our delicate ears and sensibilities and understand: when two siblings have a quarrel, it’s not automatically the one who’s punching or screaming who’s wrong. Sometimes the quiet one has needled and riled the other so relentlessly that there’s no option left but to scream and lash out. Inexperienced parents are usually quick to hypocritically punish the angry kid. "No hitting, Bobby, violence doesn’t solve anything, (now pull down your pants I’m going to spank you)."

Like the angry kid, I feel that common sense, rationality and humanity have taken a tremendous quiet trouncing in the past decade. So let’s answer the question: what’s worse than rage? Injustice. Repression. Public deception. For starters.

Who silently tolerates injustice and repression? Slaves. Who fails to challenge mass public deception? Sheep.

A bigger question than whether or not someone’s angry is "What are they angry about?" Everyone has a threshold. Maybe none of the political issues I mentioned at the top of the article would get you going–or maybe you’re a wingnut and think Bush/Cheney and McSame/Plain are just peachy. How about this? How about if your loved one was lying bleeding in the street and died waiting for an ambulance that took over an hour to arrive? Imagine if this happened and someone told you to calm down, that you were too angry. Does it matter that my example involved a family member? Not really. Injustice is injustice and it should concern all thinking people when it occurs.

And I haven’t even touched on my main premise: With respect to the greed and malfeasance I’ve mentioned, and the gross apathy about the climate and humanitarian crises, nothing compares to the stupefying influence of faith. Nothing makes people ignore problems like the idea that "God will provide" or that the "Rapture is coming." Like an impenetrable fog, faith puts unrepentant morons in the highest offices of the land–and makes them immune to rational argument. ("I’m the decider.")

Coincidence that George W. Bush is the most incoherent and yet most religious president of the modern era? I don’t think so. Coincidence that Sarah Palin has ridden her toxic mix of culture-war wedge-politics to national prominence? Not hardly. It’s not that Bush or Palin are particularly religious themselves–any more than most politicians. (They’re too busy figuring out how to get or stay in power to spend much time soul-searching). It’s that they’ve figured out how to say the right words to exploit the gullibility of "values voters" who are. Case in point, James Dobson’s famous quote "I’d pull that lever."

I am fucking outraged that our political process has sunk so low, that rationality has been so devalued we are more concerned about our leaders’ ability to "communicate" with "Joe-Six-Pack" than their grasp of vital facts which will determine our future. That national leaders demagogically invoke "God" to guide them and bless the nation when they’ve cynically broken nearly every one of the Ten Commandments, not to mention quite a few of the laws they’re sworn to uphold.

Dammit, I’m livid.

I’m furious that when Sam Harris writes an extremely cogent and well-reasoned critique of Palin for Newsweek, his article is headlined "When Atheists Attack."

I’m waiting for the day when our nation is not imperiled by religious fanatics, both within and without, when candidates actually debate instead of reciting talking points. When there’s a moderator who actually performs real-time fact-checking and challenges the candidates, instead of sitting there mutely officiating.

I look forward to the day when atheists no longer have to sit exasperated, dealing with believers’ profession of their hallucinatory fantasies, tiredly reminding them one more time: "your god is made-up," or "you can’t prove a negative," or "the bible was written by Bronze-age nomads, and it’s really kind of violent and misogynistic," or "that’s equivocation." I look forward to the day when it’s not even a discussion in the UN about universal human rights–when the despicable machinations of the OIC to redefine those rights in favor of Islamic repression would be laughed out of the room.

I know that if humanity survives the 21st century, that day will come. Maybe not in my lifetime. But as sure as we conquered plagues, discovered the earth was not flat, figured out that matter was composed of atoms, we will discover that religion has its origins in the human brain. We will come to learn and accept as a universal truth that religion and its traditions have posed the greatest existential threat to our species–greater than any predator in evolutionary history–greater than any virus. That religions once had a valuable role in tribal cohesion in no way reduces their danger to the modern world. As we gain full understanding of the functioning of the human brain, we will group religion along with other forms of subjective cognitive errors. We will find ways of replacing old modes of belief with knowledge–and with something better–something that genuinely meets the needs of all humanity for meaning, hope, community, charity, and dealing with death. But without the pernicious reason-destroying by-product of faith.

In the meantime, when people try to shove the stinking corpse of their privileged beliefs down my throat or into the public square, I’m going to be angry about it–and I’m going to express myself. Focusing this anger for change is my personal strategy, and it’s been the hallmark of Black Sun Journal from day one. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Otherwise, silence is consent. Otherwise, I’m complicit in the confusion and social dysfunction that inevitably ensue when religion or religious metaphor are allowed unchallenged access.

Now, to my question: Does anger help? Or does it turn people off? Both. First it turns them off. Then it reaches a critical mass and they take notice. Then a battle is joined, and that’s when things can change. It happened in Boston after the tea was dumped. It happened with women’s rights, gay rights, and it will happen with atheism. In the meantime, there’s plenty to stay pissed off about. People who say we’re too angry obviously have some kind of stake in the status quo. If they are so convinced anger will turn people off, then they should be happy we’re angry. They should stand back laughing and watch us blunder. But they don’t. Clearly they know anger is an effective tactic, and they correctly fear for the demise of a worldview that’s as bankrupt as the plundered U.S. treasury.


Red Lenses

I see red
It hurts my head
I guess it must be something
That I read.

It’s the color of your heartbeat
A rising summer sun
The battle lost or won
The flash to fashion
The pulse to passion
Feels red inside my head.

And truth is often bitter left unsaid
Said red red
Thinking about the overhead
The underfed.
Couldn’t we talk about
Something else instead.

We’ve got Mars on the horizon
Says the national midnight star
It’s True
What you believe is what you are
A pair of dancing shoes
The soviets are the blues
The reds, under your bed
Lying in the darkness
Dead ahead.

And the mercury is rising
Barometer starts to fall
You know it gets to us all
The pain that is learning
And the rain that is burning
Feel red, still, go ahead
You see black and white
And I see red, Red
Not blue. 

–Neil Peart, Grace Under Pressure, 1984

 


Comments (18 comments)

pat Denino / October 5th, 2008, 5:16 am / #1

I’m glad I discovered your website and writing, and have subscribed. I agree with you about expressing anger. To hear your anger intelligently and passionately voiced strengthens my own understandings.

paul nader vets united / October 5th, 2008, 7:52 am / #2

Barack John
Left and rights of passage
Black and whites of youth
Who can face the knowledge
that the truth is not the truth?
Obsolete Absolute

Ron Ralph
Cruising under your radar
Watching from the satellites
Take a page from the red book
and keep them in your sights
Red alert Red alert

USN

Nina / October 5th, 2008, 8:23 am / #3

Sean: “Now, to my question: Does anger help? Or does it turn people off? Both. First it turns them off. Then it reaches a critical mass and they take notice. Then a battle is joined, and that’s when things can change. It happened in Boston after the tea was dumped.”

Wow, this is one of the best articles I have read for a long time.

Yes, I believe that anger does help. I have been waiting for this anger which I sometimes call “the wrath of love” to hit this country. There is a powerful anger that is born of love – not hate, profound care for others and oneself – not selfishness. I believe that when we love enough, we will wake up from the stupor that has made us stick our heads in the sand while this country and the world is burning. How much does it take for people to get angry enough to get off of their couches and demand accountability from our leaders, to care enough to see through the hypocrisy even if it hurts? I guess when the hurt becomes too great. If somebody intrudes into our homes with the intent to rape or kill, the wrath of love can stir the meekest person into action. Well, our collective house is under siege, it is time to take it back with some appropriate wrath.

Ben Stone / October 5th, 2008, 8:46 am / #4

Calm down Sean. If Obama wins [ and he is leading] Then Palin’s 15 minutes will be over. These people [Russ L , Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson Bill O’Reilly, etc. etc.] don’t have the power they had 8 years ago. People are wiseing up Countdown with Kieth Olbermann The huffington Post The Nation. Look on the bright side , Bill Maher’s new move Religilous is opening up Even OJ looks like he’s going to get what it looks like he deserves [although I think the trial was fake] Putting pictures like that out just gives adversaries amunition. As despicable as I believe someone like Karl Rove is They win because they play smart Remember there was a time when you might describe yourself as brainwashed

links for 2008-10-05 « Clint’s blog / October 5th, 2008, 11:01 am / #5

[…] POLITICS: Red Lenses My uncle Sean writes an impassioned article, in part describing the value of ANGER in the political process, and in part describing the toll of religion on our species. Good points are made. (tags: politics blog articles bySeanProphet anger religion atheism) […]

JoJo / October 5th, 2008, 12:35 pm / #6

I see red too
and my blood boils and pores steam, and i’m told to stay calm, and that everything’ll be alright .
cause being and looking cool is what’s right, that’s a baromoter we all understand, how sad, how mad
black sun you are a brother form another mother.
and as for you believer, your god hides in shame as well he should, living in this mortalist society even though we’re blindly preach imortality
the banner of the american dream is stuffed down my throat as a cure for all and i cant stop gagging
tell me how you can impeach a president for taking out his dick, and leave to be the one that’s fucked you and the world rotten?
shame on you all, you all that could, off to nuremburg with the lot of them
in the name of god!?, yeah, you better run and hide!
SEVEN HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS!? YOU INSULTING UNCARING FUCKING MEAN GREEDY HATING BASTARDS! theres only 300 million of us
jeez, calm down bro!
NO!
i do hear lennon’s words though, and how wonderful the world would be

Happy&Free: .) / October 5th, 2008, 1:27 pm / #7

Nina, wow! Hello ! I’m known for my temper! For things that r not tolerable, that is! And it’s from caring too deeply! It’s why Angelina Jolie is one of my hero’s! She’s accomlished what I dreamed of doing but couldn’t ! I always tell my friends doing “The Boston tea Party” today would send most of us to jail but it’s that very type of Rebelion & WrathAnger that made This Nation! I loveTBTP story, it’s my favorite!!
I always thought TBTP was the coolest thing Ben Frankline & his companions ever did ! It’s exactly what I would of done, definatly would have been on board w/ those dudes!!
So totaly agree w/ u! It’s exactly what my purpose is going to be based on, in the future, w/ what I have in mind to accomplish, after my son turns 18!
What u wrote was awesome! Thks for writting it ! A kindred spirit ! = )

Happy&Free: .) / October 5th, 2008, 3:04 pm / #8

Hi fives Sean! A neccessary & important piece tp BSJ. Healthy constructive anger contributes tremendously to making the world go ’round! It’s anger out of Love that wks! NOT ANGER OUT OF HATE. Though I know that’s a fine line because one uaually hates what thier angry about or to!
TBTP is always my referal, when every one pisses me off even more telling me to calm down, and when I tell them “Hey! What do u think TBTP was about !!! That’s what I believe in, it’s my favorite story! ” I usually say this yelling, No caps here = ) And Patrick Henry didn’t say “Give me Liberrty or give me death” in a low tone! Animals DON’T defend or stand up for themselves quietly! One must ROAR!!!!! AND SHOW THEIR PLACE IN LIFE! Bunnies have their place, but I’ve never scene one stand up & fight in any form or way.
TBTP in civil variations is the ultimate example of neccsary rebellion when diplomacy has been inaffective. Anger Rocks, it’s Cool, it’s one of the ultimate expressions we still have that is always being surpressed in our modern world as something negative, embarrassing, unproductive! A tactic of those who want society to conform & have an easier time controling everyone who listens to these lies!
That’s why here in CONSERVATIVE Virginia any one can go to a magistrate & press charges if u say “FUCK U” or any so called profanities to them, w/ the help of a witness!!!! The charges would be Verbal Assault! And as a person w/ the personal expeience having told an officer he needed psychological help & counsiling abusing his authority, officers in VA can arrest u for this under Disorderly Conduct! One wk in Jail was an educating experience & one I will never forget! This isn’t something one can ever get going to college! Learned a whole lot about the so called “Correctional Facilities” in our Nation!!! I was let go under what they call “personal recognances” (might of misspelled it?).
There r consequences to one standing up for something, especially in anger or wrath form. I guess anything done in anger or wrath wouldn’t feel like acomplishments or victories if there wasn’t opposition, what do u think? Intelligent piece! !

Amaterasu / October 5th, 2008, 3:49 pm / #9

Ben Stone:

I see no relevance to your comment “remember there was a time when you might describe yourself as brainwashed”.
The problem is not people making mistakes and learning from them, (myself included), but being so afraid of making a mistake, that they never do or say anything orginal.
I hope the original progressive thinkers of this world never calm down. There is enough sloth in society to warrant loud angry protestations.

pboyfloyd / October 5th, 2008, 7:34 pm / #10

Hi!

I’m just considering your point.

Angry Muslims blow things up.
Angry Christians blow things up.
Angry Buddhists(spelling?) incinerate themselves.
What do angry atheists do?

The ‘world’ it seems ‘wants’ to be deluded that they are going to go to Heaven(perhaps get to own some virgins) after they die.

The ‘world’ is willing to ‘scapegoat’ anyone who will try to break them of this delusion.

The theists do a bang-up job of convincing each other that atheists are responsible for gayness, abortion, porn, everything that they are good at being forgiven for themselves.

I guess they feel that atheists don’t just DO these things but are, ultimately responsible for them. Sure they ‘slip’ and have ‘fun’ but they feel guilty and eventually ask God for forgiveness. But then they get to blame atheists for it all now.

What is the point of being angry at these people?

I’m afraid that we live in an insane asylum. I’m just hoping that I get to die peacefully in my sleep.

Chris / October 5th, 2008, 7:45 pm / #11

great post dad. I think more and more atheists are coming to recognize the dire nature of the problems at hand. Its too bad people are such panzies. Because if the stats are accurate, and 16 percent of the US is atheist/other, than there should be a lot more pissed off people out there and we should be hearing their voices. Well, to all you enablers out there, all you closet atheists and agnostics who think its better to stay out of the conflict or at least justify your inaction by claiming to be “taking the higher ground”, I present to you David Isens law: Don’t be a pussy, and don’t be a bitch. We live in dangerous times, and it is becoming dangerous to remain safely indifferent.

I remember the first time I saw the new 1 dollar coins. I was in chicago and I was so happy to finally be holding US currency that wasn’t scarred with the right’s “in god we trust” brand. Just the other day I paid for some gas and received a couple of the same one dollar coins, only to find those fucking dreadful words shoved down my throat, once again. I’m not sure what happened or when it was changed. Perhaps the coins were deemed “unpatriotic”, or simply “unlucky”. Whatever the case, religious america has invaded our space once again. And once again, judging by our silence, we have fallen back.

So I implore you. All of you who yearn for progress and tolerance, and who strive for only the most critical of thought and skeptical of reasoning, to uphold David Isens Law. Stop hiding in the cracks and corners of society and COME OUT OF THE CLOSET! the time is now. Let your voice be heard, or the “end times” will surely come, if not by the hand of god, then through the ignorant and intolerant hand of man.

watch Bill Maher’s Religulous. SOOOOO good.

Happy&Free: .) / October 6th, 2008, 6:53 am / #12

JoJo & Chris loved what u had to say! So Neccessary!!!!!!!! Soooo Cool !!!!!!!!

Happy&Free: .) / October 6th, 2008, 7:14 am / #13

P.S. consequences was a wrong choice, Sacrifice or Risk is better. W/ support the risk & sacrifice is lifted from the pressure that comes from Standing Up & Being Heard.The Victories r satisfing like after a hards day wk & seeing a pay chk reflecting ones labor.
I have found anger doesn’t show up in a person till thier life has been Ultimatly threatened!
So those who aren’t speaking out leaving it to the rest of us, I give u “The Hen & The Corn Seed”. As a child I wasn’t able to read it, but the pictures of the animals expresions intrigued me. When I finally was able to read it for my self, it became one of my favorites! This version was from Golden Bks. I recomend this for everyine for old time sake. And for those who don’t remember it or never read it, one is never to old to learn from a childhood story!

mightymjolnir / October 6th, 2008, 2:27 pm / #14

Sometimes you have to just let loose – I couldn’t agree more on your Sam Harris observation:

http://freethoughtfortwayne.org/2008/09/21/why-ranting-matters/

But I have hope that it all gets better.

(I mean, it has to…right?)

m

BlackSun / October 7th, 2008, 10:13 am / #15

Thanks, everyone for getting the point of my rant (and not getting put off by my middle finger!)

A friend sent me this by Lee Iaccoca, which echoes nearly the exact spirit of what I was trying to say (no I did not read his book first).

Lee Iacocca Says:

Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the
politicians say, “Stay the course”

Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America , not the damned ‘Titanic’. I’ll give you a sound bite: ‘Throw all the bums out!’

You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.

The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving ‘pom-poms’ instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of the ‘ America ‘ my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.

I’ve had enough. How about you?

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged. This is a fight I’m ready and willing to have.

Reality Czech / October 10th, 2008, 12:11 pm / #16

The leadership of this country has been giving the finger to the public for decades.

Why should I be upset with you? You didn’t make me come here and look at it. But our officials are another matter entirely.

H&F: .) / October 10th, 2008, 2:29 pm / #17

Bravo Bravo Reality Czech!
But isn’t it why we’re so pissed & offended by them. Always giving the minority the finger?

Black Sun Journal » Only the Pyromaniacs Oppose Sustainability / February 1st, 2009, 5:44 am / #18

[…] It makes me–in a word–furious. I talked a little bit about this in my article Red Lenses, in which I gave the arm-draggers my middle finger. Well it’s still sticking out, right in […]

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