July| Vol. 22 No. 8.02 | Christian's Chronicles © 2015 – All rights reserved.
After a long pause of contemplation, consecration, conservation, and condensation, there seems to be an overabundance of material to chronicle, but only so much time and precious real estate, somewhat surprisingly, upon the near-infinitude of the wide lanes of the information superhighway that so obligingly carries each Chronicle to the anxious ears, eyes, and whatever other sensory interaction we can accommodate, of our loyal readers. Perhaps not the worst problem to have – but we must use our editorial discretion wisely, to select and appropriately target each new edition of The Chronicles, relevant to current events, as well as in consideration of the wild ride our readers experienced through the roller-coaster of the previous Chronicle.
Thus, it was a tough choice not to follow up on ‘Democracy Inaction‘ with a D.I. part II, given relevant events and such. That work of art does deserve a sequel, indeed, more than one new Chronicle will build upon its robust foundations. But those follow-ups, and a possible interview, have to patiently wait their turn in the cascade of vermilion brilliance of each successive ripple in The Chronicles. The theme of this Chronicle is:
This may not have become immediately apparent on first glance, considering the title. However, much like Jerry McGuire, this term says to the fragment of the heading: “you complete me.” Well, with the addition of “as” to consummate the marriage. So, for most people, it is true (whether they realize it or not) that:
Nothing makes me as intensely angry as righteous indignation.
Perhaps we should note two things right away. First, maybe a list of various anger-inducing people, things, categories, and other examples would have been the more expected approach inducing a ‘that makes sense, me too!’ response in the reader. For example: nothing makes me as intensely angry as:
And so on. Take your pick from the list of anger-inducing things. You might even move on to more abstract concepts such as: (a) Injustice! (b) Racism! (c) Apathy! …or whatever. But, I think ‘righteous indignation’ captures more completely, and simply better, not just examples, but an explanation of WHY those particular things, people, or concepts are anger-inducing.
Righteous indignation is not only what sets the stage for anger, but it’s what allows for the fury to rise to unparalleled intensity. It is a license to set our deepest, darkest animal natures, blood-thirst, and primal violent rages free, under color of justice. It is when anger can be ugliest.
This might sound like a bit of a paradox, or perhaps even hypocritical, to the readers of The Chronicles, who by now surely have become accustomed to expressions of overwhelmingly negative views toward McGeorge School of Law, for example, which can fairly be described as just this: righteous indignation.
The simplest retort to this tu quoque attack is: we at The Chronicles have never found hypocrisy to be too much of an obstacle.
The proposition for present purposes is that feelings of outrage at perceived injustice should be viewed with an abundance of caution, precisely because the ‘righteous’ part of the indignation allows the outrage to grow unchecked by the usual impediments that otherwise temper these negative tendencies. But the rational capacity we have evolved and cultivated as cultured human beings appears to be increasingly more frequently and easily hijacked by factors that seem to negate the possibility of allowing ‘cooler heads to prevail.’ The impulse to emotion is too strong. The temptation to allow the self-serving justification of ‘righteousness’ to set our ugliest urges free is overwhelming.
Moral progress, if we are to accept such ideals, ought to parallel a gradual growth away from the animal instinct of action based on emotion, toward the human capacity to understand, contemplate, and act based on reason. Yet it seems technology is robbing humanity of its humanity. The shorthand expressions of social media, news made of sound-bytes, and communication focused on imagery and emotion have robbed us of our ability to comprehend anything else; the ability to do anything but jump to the conclusions presented for our consumption.
The there are often forces, such as the media or those that function through the media, which benefit from exploiting ‘righteous indignation.’ There are those who live in the spotlight of righteous indignation, who would be useless without repeated opportunities to whip a crowd into a fury, justified by some perceived injustice. There are those who play to our biases, and much like the polarized, arguably dysfunctional, unproductive political debates played out in the media, present caricatures and straw men in place of reasoned debate.
Whatever side of an issue, the loudest voices tend to be the truest believers, who are the most passionate, most self-righteous, most indignant. More alarming than their self-righteous anger is their complete inability to see an alternate point of view.
Whether you think the civil unrest is justified, whether you come down on the side of justified shooting or violent murder with regard to any number of recent events making the rounds in the news, chances are – YOU have arrived at your opinion through the shortcut of self-confirming bias and spoon-fed truths of the brand of media you happen to be partial toward.
Here at The Chronicles, we prefer to allow the facts to slowly seep to the surface, rather than chasing whatever mirage some may present for us, no matter how forcefully.
Rather than discussing far-away protests and violence involving the police, we opted to use an example closer to home. This past weekend, two law enforcement officers were killed in a shooting-spree and ensuing chase in the Sacramento area. The Sacramento Bee reports that the suspect (remember, he has not been convicted yet) has been deported twice, and had a conviction for selling narcotics.
This itself is enough to ignite the flame of righteous indignation. In fact, it is difficult to muster any arguments against it. This man, oh – and let’s not be sexist and forget his accomplice wife – did a terrible act and robbed two families of a loved one. This, assuredly, deserves punishment. Moreover, he certainly should not have been allowed to enter this country. It also is a ‘big enough of a deal’ to receive coverage on mainstream media, though the fear of crowds motivated by ‘righteous indignation’ appear to sometimes diminish coverage of some deaths, while emphasizing others.
But, let’s not jump to conclusions.
This case presents an easy straw-man argument against illegal immigration, for example, as though something that is already acknowledged to be illegal needed a legal boost. But, of course, the argument won’t be made on legal grounds. It will be based on emotion, and dehumanization, not just of this particular individual but the abstract version that can easily be applied, like a cookie-cutter, to a large group of people.
This is the recurring problem with our policies, and our technology-reduced attention spans. Politics, and mob rule, are both fueled by righteous indignation with the result of an individual incident producing changes and short sighted, unintended consequences applicable to all, often with very troubling implications. On the flip side, we use statistics to influence decisions that affect the lives of individuals. Both are wrong.
Whenever you feel the flame of anger fanned by righteous indignation, cool it off with rational debate and contemplation. Opt for the slow, controlled burn rather than the all-consuming inferno.
Except when it come to the irreversible betrayal of higher education. Don’t let your kids go to law school. And remember, here at The Chronicles, we hate McGeroge.