Opinion | The Value of Anger

In English, “courage” is synonymous with bravery. In Spanish, the word “Coraje” means rage. Both words stem from the same latin root-word, “cor” meaning “heart”.

Anger, rage, and fury are unwelcome emotions. We do not enjoy feeling angry, nor do we enjoy being at the receiving end of other people’s anger, but anger, individual and collective, clamors to be felt, lived in and experienced. This is something the right comprehends very well. For years leading up to this moment in time the right has been perfecting the use of anger as a force of destruction. I believe the left can use anger to create.

First it’s necessary to understand what anger is and what it can be. In psychology anger is often described as a “secondary emotion”, an emotion that occurs after an accumulation of other “primary” emotions such as discomfort, sadness, frustration, or fear. Anger can also set in once a primary emotion no longer serves a purpose. For myself and many others, anger demands attention the way that other emotions don’t. The intensity of anger lends it the capacity to be driving force under the right circumstances.

I’ve lived with and managed severe clinical depression since my early teens. In my most challenging episodes, love—for my family, friends, and the world around me was what helped me fend off suicide. Anger is what continually saves me from apathy. Anger drags me out of bed after days of shapeless, ineffectual despair, and reminds me that I “deserve better than this!”. Anger doesn’t have to breed misery and confusion. Anger can give way to clarity and decisiveness. There is power in well-applied anger and if the left squanders this power we may fail, as a democracy, and potentially, as a civilization.

The other side of anger’s power? Anger can be very very inconvenient for others. Anger can leave three thousand less-than-polite voicemails at your congressman’s office. It can file lawsuits, march in the streets, stop traffic, throw a curve-ball at a major corporations’ projected stock value, and so much more. 

Anger can deviate from the norm and finally make our problems the ruling class’s problems, and it must. The wealthy have almost exclusive access to institutional power and the ability to shield themselves from the majority of the problems created by their own incompetent, corrupt institutional control. Throughout history all effective movements have in one way or another inconvenienced (with the inconveniences ranging from a hefty fine to a swift decapitation) the very people who orchestrated the precipitating event or crisis and who would otherwise be unaffected by it.

Finally, anger may be the left’s saving grace because of its power to unify. Recently we have witnessed the division and hatred created by misplaced anger, most notably among white supremacists. But we can be angry too. And our unique strength is that we can be angry together. Our unified anger can be directed at those who have tried to make us feel angry all alone. There is unimaginable power in walking across racial, ethnic, class lines, looking another human in the eyes and saying, angrily, “we deserve better than this!”.

Claudia ZavalaComment