Sunday, September 1, 2013

"I'm only really happy when I'm really, really angry!"

I haven't posted in quite some time. I had the entire month of August in which there were no mandatory events or other pressing obligations. I spent much of it watching TV and marveling at America's fastest growing commodity: anger. An ongoing anger that seems to characterize Americans of all stripes - but it's a different kind of anger. It's the type of anger that brings these individuals happiness. And it seems to be the only thing that makes them happy.

They've become Anger-Holics (AHs) and they've been a source of aggravation  for much of my life - with apparently few skills and outside interests, their sole purpose, beyond finding new things to be angry about, is broadcasting that emotion to all who care to listen - and to quite a few who don't. They cannot be shut-up and despite their insistence on talking your ear off, never stop to lsiten. Everyone is exposed to them - if you're not aware of them, you ARE one of them. Unfortunately, we've reached a point where the "contented few," the present-day remnant, are hopelessly besieged by unstructured rantings from marginally coherent products of the public schools.

For the most part, AHs are the kind of guys and gals who once were docile and soft-spoken; yet as we teach more and more individuals that their opinion is "as good as anyone else's", the tenor of our discourse has changed - as a result we have many among the formerly meek insisting on their inheritance now.

As a result, when offended by some bureaucrat, store clerk, or waitress, they turn into madding machines of verbal vengeance. To hear them tell it, they bullied their meter reader, Wal-Mart manager, or middle school principal into abject fear. Two weeks or months later they'll tell you of a new villain brutalized by new and improved tongue lashings - with few exceptions, the assaults are verbal, as the written word remains a serious obstacle. 

At first, these individuals evolve slowly  - new converts need time to search out agreeable (and volatile) source material. Novices, then, cultivate their initial causes with the patience of an orchid breeder. The truly addicted kvetcher discovers a new cause every other day.

Eventually, our progressive malcontent finds solace only in grand national, worldly, or galactic transgressions. The bigger the problem and the more unlikely it is to respond to their appeals, the more avid they become; through this bizzarre process, our AHs achieve some kind of temporary anger-happiness nirvana - the stay is, of course, short-lived as happiness has become a strange and uncomfortable emotion. So, our dedicated AHs quickly move on to another "unacceptable" transgression.

These "transgressions" are frequently real, but occasionally imagined; they can spring from the imagination or, more and more often, through governmental design. Governments, both local and national, have a vested interest in channeling these consumed individuals away from their representatives and towards a strawman or woman. Hence many of our current bureaucracies are not in place to actually solve the problems that naturally spring from prejudicially wrought legislation. 

Bureaucracies are a diversion. And their purpose wasn't truly apparent until Tom Wolfe unmasked it in 1970 with his book "Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers." The book is actually a two parter - the first is devoted to that late fathead, Leonard Bernstein, and his groveling admiration of the Black Panthers; in the second part, Wolfe describes how politically appointed stand-ins (Flak Catchers) are subject to daily verbal beatings (Mau-Mauing) by - you guessed it - a slew of AHs.

I eventually saw a Flak Catcher in action. It occurred during an early '90s Q&A session in a northern suburb of Chicago. Rumors were rife that Mayor Daley (the younger) had plans to build a new runway at O'Hare. He dennided it, but suburbanites learned quickly that a Daley promise was as good as gold in the city, but meant nothing elsewhere. 

The suggested take-offs and landings would have directed even more flights above our already over-overflown suburb. For close to three hours, one after another of these AHs stepped to the podium and repeated, more or less, exactly what the person before him had stated and what the individual following would reiterate. 

But it really made them feel better - and the editor of the local paper, being no dummy, carefully noted who spoke, and faithfully listed their names in the next edition. It just does not get better than that for the novice or professional AHs! 

The Flak Catcher? He walked out of there completely unfazed. Things had changed from the early days. I'm assuming there are special schools with specially trained (or naturally born) verbal abusers (closet AHs?) acting like Marine DI's who spend the day scorning and denigrating these individuals until there able to face the raging public (they probably make great husbands/wives).

But things have improved dramatically for the AHs. Talk radio kicked it off and still gets bigger. Almost anyone who can call in without using obscenities can speak his mind; the radio personalities, often cut from the same angry cloth can be anything from well-informed to hopelessly stupid. It really doesn't matter, though, as the topics covered and the arguments made have been made over and over again…there is no new ground. 

Then the geniuses behind publishing and website creation developed the "blog." No longer were AHs held at arms length by call-screeners. Now any clown with time on his hands (who me?), a random thought, and knowledge of a keyboard has access to the "world." He proceeds to foul the bandwidth with poorly developed thoughts that once, thank the Lord, would never have seen the light of day. 

But among these, there will be a few (very few) real gems. Other bloggers will re-post and maybe, just maybe, a piece will be good enough to get a mention by one of the Major Bloggers (I count as "major" any blogger who brings in enough cash to buy a six-pack and a pizza every week) or picked by some media maven like Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, a liberal-turned-conservative-turned liberal…she's a woman of strong beliefs.

Now, of course, AHs can really move into the major markets with the Fox, CNN, and NBC networks airing nightly free-for-alls with calls, tweets, and emails invited and (occasionally) read on the air. Add in my least-favorite venue, the Court TV crowd and their "legal experts," and you have enough topics of human arrogance and depravity to satisfy a world filled with AHs. 

We cannot leave the AH issue without a mention of You Tube and similar outlets that allow almost anyone to broadcast their AHs thoughts visually. In many, many cases these broadcasts are reminiscent of the old "Gong Show" - but with less polish. Will it never end? I doubt it. The destruction of the Tower of Babel has borne its ultimate fruit. We are doomed to speak to each other without understanding, without wanting to understand, and without listening.