Beyond Rage and Resentment by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (January 27, 2018)


Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

I am returning to this column, addressed particularly to the Muslim youth, after a while. The issue I want to talk about is the ubiquitous violence, sense of dissatisfaction and disappointment, rage and resentment that seem to be the spirit of the age.

At the core of it stand the youth because, naturally, they have the required level of energy that snowballs into a rage and, in case of not finding a target to vent it on, gradually simmers down to a low and long-burning resentment that can go on for days and weeks, even months and years.

To take an analogy from Met, rage is like weather ( a relatively short-term affair) and resentment is like climate (a more stable, enduring, general category). An example of its sudden, explosive, devastating and irrational character is road rage. Just because somebody in a car overtook somebody in another car or honked at him (it is always him, never her), the putative offender is dragged out of his car, stabbed, shot, or beaten to death. This is what is meant by “flying into a rage”, rather than” “slowly moving into a rage”.

Even the agitated, volatile and violent lynch mob’s mental condition is described as a rage, although groups forming such mobs are already nursing long-enduring resentment cultivated by demagogues feeding such groups on a steady dose of hate against a targeted group. Flash mobs, seething with anger, collect within minutes to lynch somebody for alleged beef-eating, storage of beef or “intending to slaughter” a cow. In such moments the slow-burning resentment suddenly bursts into a rage.

Today, the world is caught in a web of wars and civil wars. In India, targeted killings of minorities, Dalits and tribals is common in an environment of violence. It is important to know why there is so much of violence going on all over the world. Of course, the causes range from political, economic, ethnic, religious and social to psychological.

Sometimes resentment is built into a social, political or economic situation. Social fabric is often strained when an economy stagnates. The deprived groups look for some scapegoat to blame for causing economic slowdown and consequent deprivation. Egged on by political demagogues they are susceptible to vent their anger against a targeted (often unjustly) group for spectacular violence.

We should always keep in mind that rage and resentment are founded on frustration, which is the end result of belied expectations. Suppose you have arranged a party for your friends at your home, ending with a dinner at 9 pm. The tantalising menu is known to the small group of your friends. But till 9:30 pm the caterers do not deliver the food. They finally begin to arrive at 10 pm as several guests have already left and others are fidgeting, preparing to go away.

Somehow you get the table laid, but then the caterer’s delivery men announce that because the head cook suddenly fell ill, the caterers did not supply some of the main dishes and sent something else sourced from some other caterer. The burst of anger at that time is frustration, that comes from a belied expectation of good, tasty food.

There are some long-term situations of belied expectations of large masses of people, in which anger and resentment grow slowly over long periods and are reflected in adverse decisions of those large masses of people against those who have allegedly caused the frustration. An example of this is the slowly accumulating resentment of voters against the Union government for falsely promising achhe din, and Bharat soney jaisa chamke ga after the note ban, as well as Rs 15 lakh into every Indian’s bank account to be transferred as quickly as the BJP took over at the Centre.

Such frustration builds gradually and expresses itself in terms of negative vote, if not today, tomorrow, or day after.

As private individuals we cannot do much to stop international wars or large-scale civil wars. However, we can contain the smaller-scale violent results of rage and resentment of everyday type by being more reasonable, avoiding confrontations and looking coolly at provocations. We can also defuse simmering animosities through interaction and seeking common ground.

To the Muslim youth, to whom the Heart-to-Heart column is primarily addressed, I would like to say that Islam accepts the emotion of anger as natural, but prohibits acting in anger. For example, Islam accepts the anger at somebody murdering somebody else, or some serious wrong-doing like rape or robbery, but does not allow its followers to react in anger. The general rule is to help law take its course.

Finally, I would advice the youth to be restrained and mindful, and think before they act. Also, always examine your life. The great philosopher Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”


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