Yesterday, I, along with many other people across the world, was furiously, violently angry. Whether I was righteously angry, only time will tell. But I was angry – and I am not ashamed of that anger.
Why was I angry? Not, despite surface appearances, because someone whom, from what I’ve seen and heard of them, I intensely dislike, and think is a thoroughly reprehensible human being has been handed a job for which he has, from what I can gather, no experience or qualification.
I was angry for many reasons, but not “just because Trump got elected.” Unqualified people get promoted to valuable, influential jobs all the time – if I got angry about that, I’d never get anything else done, and would have probably dropped dead from stress, a heart attack, or stomach ulcers by now.
1. I was angry because men like me – genuinely decent men, who were raised to treat women as equals, to accord them respect, to work with them in genuine partnership, to accept their answers, even when we didn’t like them – have been told, from possibly the most powerful country in the world, and, it turns out, by a significant number of women, that we’re “not real men.” Because real men grab pussy. Real men don’t respect women. Real men take what they want, and treat people like property. Real men are crass, violent, vulgar, and objectionable. By those lights, I’m not a real man. My father wasn’t a real man. My uncle and cousins aren’t real men. My best friend’s husband isn’t a real man. My closest male friends aren’t real men. The three best bosses I’ve known in my working life weren’t real men. I am angry because America at large has invalidated the gender, identity, and personhood of many decent, hardworking, dedicated men – men I know personally, and men far beyond my circle. We may not always behave appropriately, but we always try to. We may not always be our best selves, but we always aim to be. We may not always give 100%, but that is always our intention. And we have been told, loudly, clearly, whilst being mocked for our “not-alpha-male” attitudes and behaviours, that it’s all a waste of time. That we’re just losers, destined to watch men who have no intention of trying to be good, of giving of their best, succeed.
2. I was angry because there are children – boys, girls, and non-binary young people – who have seen the lie in the words “bullies never prosper.” A generation will grow up thinking that bullying and demanding and indulging in violence is the way to get what you want.
3. I was angry because, yet again – just as it was with Brexit in the UK – intelligence has been mocked and derided. I’m sick of hearing “the people who do well in business are those who aren’t academic”, “We’ve had enough of experts”, “the wisdom of the crowd is what counts”, “Intellectuals, hiding away in their ivory towers…” I’ve had enough of someone else’s opinion being held to have as much value as my factual knowledge or lived experience – or, indeed, anyone else’s factual knowledge or lived experience. Certainly, those who have non-academic skills should be respected – I currently have no heating or hot water, and, while I could probably get a Shakespeare scholar for free, what I really need is a plumber, or a heating engineer – but I can’t afford those services.
4. I was angry because I’m tired – fundamentally exhausted – of peoples’ inability to see beyond their own lives. I will be dead, probably in the next 40-50 years. The world isn’t mine – it belongs to those who will come after me, and my decisions should be what will be best for them, not me. Everyone’s decisions should be based on what will be best for those who will come after us.
Those are the thorns I have to face today, in order to grasp tomorrow’s roses. I have to look yesterday’s result, and the anger it called forth, in the face, and work out what and where the creative negativity is in all of this, and how to use it.
Firstly – anger is good, because its positive counterpart is passion, and passion is what gets things done. Passion is what keeps people turning up and giving 100% to a job, day in, day out, year in, year out, even on the tough days, the bad days, the days it would be easier to just stay in bed. Passion is what keeps a couple together for half a century or more, despite the rows and sulks and stresses and broken crockery. Passion is what gets books written, funds raised, and, ultimately, passion is what gets worlds changed.
Secondly – knowing what you’re angry about tells you what you should be focusing your energy and time on. In my case, that’s promoting genuinely decent men, standing up to bullies, and ensuring that intelligence is focused in practical, world-improving, life-enhancing outlets – the only way it will ever be truly respected. My energy should be focused on promoting facts, as calmly, rationally, and relevantly as I can, on drawing attention to the genuine, decent, gentlemen that I know from personal experience abound, in finding ways to encourage boys to become men like me, men like my father, men like the friends I have, men like my uncle and his sons, and in finding ways to encourage girls to believe that they, too, are capable of leadership.
I may have to accept that “the world is what it is” – but I refuse to accept that I always and inevitably have to work with “what the world is” – if what the world is is unacceptable to me, and runs counter to the things I have decided to invest my time and energy in, then I will accept that “the world is what it is” – but I will actively work against the world as it is. Not through violence or criminal acts, but through the action of water against stone – washing over the stone of an unacceptable world with a quietly eternal countering force. Because the thing about water is, not only will it eventually wear down even the strongest stone, but it can also do something that is beyond stone – water can provide power, and sustain life.