Posted on 15 February 2017
For twenty-three years the right-leaning Liberal-Country Coalition government had led Australia when in 1972 Gough Whitlam and the left-leaning Labor party made it into power. The Whitlam government instituted universal health care, free university education, and legal aid programs. The opposition worked hard to obstruct Labor programs. In 1975 they demanded a new election. Whitlam arranged to meet with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr in order to call a half-Senate election. Instead Sir John Kerr dismissed Gough Whitlam without warning and commissioned the opposition leader as prime minister.
Gough Whitlam was shocked. In his speech to the public after the event he exhorted the Australian people to “Maintain your rage”, so as to ensure the upcoming election would reflect their anger. Their right to choose representatives and leaders had been over-ridden by an inherently un-democratic system.
Since that historic moment “maintain the rage” has been a popular expression in Australia when people feel their rights are being abridged. This inspite of the fact that people were unable to maintain the rage on the behalf of the Labor party in the 1970s. It wasn’t until 1983 that another Labor goverment was voted into place.
Anger has an important place in our lives. However, chronic anger is known to be damaging to people’s emotional and physical health. Medical studies have found strong links to anger and higher risk of coronary disease and type 2 diabetes. People also drive in a riskier manner and are more likely to be in car accidents. Fight, flight, or freeze responses are biologically meant to be temporary.
Right now people all over the world are having their rights eroded by corporations and politicians who are supporting corporate agendas. The US is experiencing a tidal wave of rage as the Trump administration attempts to perpetrate one human rights violation after another. Already we are seeing discussion about people facing protest fatigue.
Change can and must be made to create a safe world: a world of peace. Such change will require long-term dedication. Rage feels like power. Rage feels like the hot steam needed to propel a train at high speed to some sort of victory. Humans are not made of iron and all we will achieve using rage is our personal self-destruction before we achieve the needful.
Bonding with others through a shared enemy is not very sticky. That’s because tolerance has been established through distraction. So long as we are focusing hate on one person, we are too busy to look closely at the flaws of our compatriots. Worse we overlook the fact that the problem is more far-ranging and systemic than that single enemy, and therefore miss our target and fail. We need people bonding out of shared values and a shared vision. That’s much stickier for a long-term effort. What is the thing you are aiming for beyond the current conflict?
Political manipulators will polarise people, drive them to extremes, then take over. This time we did it to ourselves. We created a culture of rage where we have polarised ourselves such that people like Trump were able to just step into power. We have people putting the hate on anti-vaxxers without considering that these same people can also be strong supporters of environmental conservation. We have people putting the hate on Christians, without considering that a number of them believe Jesus when he said to love your neighbour as yourself: Christians like Martin Luther King Jr.
What deeply worries me is that the US Republicans will let masses of their citizens exhaust themselves in protest, then remove Trump replacing him with Pence. They will be all, “Look now, we have replaced the bad man. You no longer have any reason to worry your pretty heads.” In this way they may take the wind out of our resister’s sails and get people to accept even fewer human rights. I’m not certain how long this would last before the US either completely collapses economically and/or deteriorates into even more violence. Either way the future is bleak unless we change tactics.
What we need more than anything are cultural changes to do with our values and our priorities. Part of that will be learning how to recognise each others humanity, then acting out of goodwill for all people and all living beings. We are passengers on one tiny solar satellite. We need each other to ensure our mutual survival. Let’s learn how to be good friends, good neighbours, good allies, and good stewards. Genuinely, it takes so little to be kind and so little to be happy. We just have to agree to share and coexist.