Shouldn’t we get angry at injustice? Don’t some things deserve our rage? Or will rage just beget more rage? These are some of the questions we're thinking about on this week's show, "Righteous Rage."
What Is It
Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote that anger is a form of madness. Other philosophers share this suspicion, viewing anger as a destructive emotion that leads to cruel and vengeful acts. But don't certain kinds of injustice, like the murders of Black and Brown people in the US, deserve our rage? What's the difference between righteous indignation and a destructive urge for revenge? And how can activists channel their anger toward political good? Josh and Ray keep their cool with Myisha Cherry from UC Riverside, author of The Case for Rage: Why Anger is Essential to Anti-racist Struggle.
Should we get angry at injustice? Or does rage just beget more rage? Josh believes that righteousness should be about love and kindness, and he worries that anger is unproductive and damaging to a cause. Ray, however, points out that we should get angry at social injustices. Not only are anger and love compatible with each other, but anger also has many benefits, such as signaling self-respect.
The philosophers are joined by Myisha Cherry, Professor of Philosophy at University of California Riverside. Myisha defines a good type of anger as one that is inclusive, rational, and aims at transformation. Ray asks how we can tell when we are experiencing the good type of anger, and Myisha explains that we must examine who or what our anger is directed at. If our anger is exclusive, as in the case of white suffragists, it becomes narcissistic anger. In response to Josh’s question about how anger can provide a sense of dignity to an individual, Myisha describes the connection between anger and self-respect, which shows that it is unnecessary to have an audience for our anger.
In the last segment of the show, Josh, Ray, and Myisha discuss the moral relevance of emotions and burnout. According to Myisha, all emotions (e.g. anger, compassion, love) have a role to play in exercising true justice in the world. Josh worries that his anger isn’t always constructive or productive, but Myisha reassures him that simply channeling and expressing his anger is productive enough. Ray questions what’s problematic about anger on the behalf of others, prompting Myisha to emphasize the importance of understanding what it means to be in community with other people, as injustice affects everyone living in that society.
Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 4:05) → Holly J. McDede hears from two longtime organizers about how righteous rage has fueled their activism.
- Sixty-Second Philosopher (Seek to 45:23) → Ian Shoales considers how rage shows up in entertainment and wonders if we’ve lost sight of what real rage is.
Shouldn't we get angry at injustice?
Won't rage just beget more rage?
Don't some things deserve our anger?