Age of Anger

To keep a tab and channelise anger differently it is time colleges introduce anger management as a part of the curriculum.

Between 1935-75, Will and Ariel Durant wrote their multi-volume history of (European) civilisation dividing up what they saw as phases into The Age of FaithThe Age of ReasonThe Age of Louis XIVThe Age of VoltaireThe Age of Napoleon and so on. It isn’t as if the markers of one ‘age’ did not bleed into another, but rather that the chief influence (if we can call it that), was of a particular trend or person. Firmly Eurocentric in their gaze, the most these two writers conceded to Eastern civilisation was a volume titled Our Oriental Heritage.

The new age

Be that as it may, what do my readers think that our own times might be labelled? If we leave out technology, what is the defining feature of our days? Could it be the Age of Anger? It seems to me that whether it is conflicts flaring up while queuing at a bus stop or a school child’s response to being thwarted from getting or doing something, the outcome in no way matches the provocation. The battles of pride and wills could be over a cell-phone or a hotel bill.

When this year’s school final examination results were announced, a father beat his son to death because the child had not achieved the expected grade. In the grip of powerful waves of anger, this man lost all control. The shocking thing is he was a concerned parent, saving up for his child’s future, getting him every study aid he needed, booking his seat in the best tuition centre. Could an indifferent father have done these things? No. But disappointment at the son’s failure to achieve what he might have, goaded the father to such an extent that he fell on the youngster in a frenzy. In another instance (on the rise now) a grown son killed his aged parent because he wasn’t given his share of the property. A young woman hacked her mother on the neck because she asked the daughter to give up her friendship with an unsuitable man.

All of them slipped into violence and callousness. Either things were always as bad as they are (with fathers killing children, children attacking parents or business partners brutalising the grandchild of a debtor) and we knew nothing of it or we have reached a kind of dehumanisation which no law or religion can hope to rectify. Fourteen centuries ago, the Roman Catholic Church listed anger as one of the seven deadly sins alienating man from his higher self. Long before that date, the Bhagavad Gita warned that anger mixed with endless desire is a sort of madness causes one to ‘trip’ mentally and leads to one’s downfall.

The whole body and not just the mind participates in an angry response: adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormone, the brain shunts blood away from the gut and pushes it towards the muscles in preparation for physical exertion; heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body temperature rises and one breaks into a sweat.

We face unseen forces that threaten our well-being and put most sensitive people on edge. We have all felt the grip of anger. We have all felt control slipping. Could it be a sense of helplessness that brings on temper and rage?

Anger against an individual or anger from personal disappointments is something that can be identified and handled with training and care.

It is time educational institutions held classes on Anger Management so that students learn to recognise the rise of anger and how destructive it can be in their lives.

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