Anger is Fear

by Dave Snelgrove

[Response to a friend, an expat in Thailand who writes of anti-Muslim sentiments common among a group of men like himself, ‘tho some of these have reached him there from Canada!  Dave’s answer to him deserves wider attention, I think.  RGS]

Anger is a secondary emotion.  It follows fear.  It is even so close that one can say “Anger is Fear”.

Conservatives are more fearful than progressives or liberals.  Recent studies have shown the connection.  For example, see…

Racism is common to all very conservative parties and states.   It applies conservative philosophy and the anger/fear to the identifiable threat.

As we get older, we tend to be more conservative.  Two factors are clearly at play.  We have seen more things to be feared through having a more sizable history, and having moved through more journalistic interpretation of reality.  Further, our personal protective resources (strength, reflexes, eyesight, etc.) have diminished, leaving us more vulnerable to physical attack, illness, etc.

Add a global economic crisis and the historical tendency for hard economic times to breed anxiety and doubt about a benign universe, it is not surprising that these are fearful times.  That trend has been amplified by an expanding conservative media (e.g. Canada now has Sun TV News), building its rhetoric for years.

Where there is a healthy cultural diversity in a society, a balance may be maintained (although we see some M.P.’s labeling of tar-sands dissenters as “foreign provocateurs”, or those protesting the power given police to seize Internet user records as “pornographers”, plus recent cancelling of a play in Toronto critical of Harper).  In areas that are more homogeneous, such as enclaves of Caucasian retirees in Asian countries, one hears of common opinion that seems racist and ultra conservative.  But would not a pack of old white guys living away from their tribes be feeling afraid?

The present use of Muslims as the feared ‘other’ (which has arisen over and over again) might suggest this is not a racist response, but rather a religious one.  However, a closer look shows xenophobia is the root.

Comment by Rosemary:

History is so interesting.  Documentaries  illuminating specific periods (the Civil War, Prohibition, many wartime and post-war stories) show us how hardship and change create not just fear, but the clinging together of people who find each other familiar and less frightening. 

I think we’re in one of those periods, and are going to witness an increasing number of responses by groups and communities that depart from what we thought of as those of our civil and peaceful country.  The opportunity to express conflicting opinions is a privilege and as long as we keep up the public arguments, we’re still a healthy society.   What I think we really have to look out for is the stifling of divergent opinion and the labeling of dissenters as enemies. 



Filed under A Bigger Circle, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Anger is Fear

  1. Dan Cooperstock

    I think anger is often connected to fear, but not necessarily. What about the type of anger that some might call righteous indignation, about injustice done to people or groups other than oneself or one’s own group?

    I’m not sure I’m getting more conservative as I age, but I know I’m getting more cynical. Not sure whether that is related to aging though, or just the times we are living in.

    • Thanks for the response, Dan. You reminded me of where I first saw that analysis. It came from a book called “Anger” that I read about twenty years ago.
      It is amazing how many books there are nowadays about anger. The one I read all those years ago, suggested anger was like the “fight/flight” response to any perceived threat. That is, the brain chemistry was the same. The point of the book was to give people tools to deal with dysfunctional anger. It said anger was the response to any of three things; being hurt, being threatened, or being frustrated. For me, it was most helpful to see frustration as fear of failure. By expanding my definition of fear, every experience of anger I could recall was covered. Again the purpose was to find more functional ways of dealing with anger. Asking the question “what are you fearing?” leads to better strategies than “what are you angry about”.
      Then Spider Robinson wrote “anger is fear” in his newspaper column, and I’ve used the phrase ever since.
      It doesn’t mean fear always leads to anger. Apparently many women don’t experience “fight or flight”, or at least not the same way as men do. Again, brain chemistry.
      As for your question about “righteous indignation”? I would ask if it is dysfunctional anger, or functional analysis? I would think any fear involved might be the fear of being wrong. But I have known my share of righteous indignation – just rises up when reading the newspaper. And it can transform into action plan and be put to good use – maybe it is a necessary precursor to doing something about a wrong situation. Or it may be a response to a fear that the world will become a worse place if something isn’t done.
      Also, congratulations for aging without becoming more fearful, or at least more conservative, although I remember an aphorism from my youth that went “if you are not a socialist at twenty, there is something wrong with your heart, and if you are not a conservative at sixty, there is something wrong with your head”. I have never found any real truth in that phrase, but I just love aphorisms.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s