If we experience the hand of anger, then, without a
mindful approach, this can be expressed through sarcasm, rage, or (at the
extreme end) hatred towards the person(s) we perceive as inflicting the
injustice or destruction.
When this happens, it becomes easy to take the next
step into the story of Evil, or at least, Bad.
Reciting the story of Evil and labelling some as Good,
some as Bad, is a rabbit hole that gets deeper and deeper, with no way back to
the surface. Yet, sadly, many social justice, or environmental activists, end
up falling into this rabbit hole.
Confronting injustice or degradation with rage or hatred,
however, is a dead-end. It gets us nowhere. Furthermore, it only serves to
reinforce the very story from which the injustice or degradation arose
initially – the story of Separation.
The story of Separation is a very old one. It tells us
that we (humans) are separate from nature and separate from each other.
According to this story we exist in an Us and Them world. Naturally, as the
story goes, Us are made up of Goodies and it is Us that must bring the
perpetrators of injustice – Them Baddies – to account. In doing so, the words
of the story tell us we are justified in voicing our anger in vitriol, words of
shame, and the pointing of fingers.
Yet, it is this very separation from which the
injustices and environmental damages arise.
We cannot repair this separation by further separating
ourselves. Sarcasm, boo-ing, vitriol, rage, and hatred will not weave the torn
fabric back together again.
So, whose role is it to weave the fabric back
Surely, if those of us seeking a better society
or world are unwilling to do so, we cannot expect those who do not recognise the
fabric as torn to do so. As Dr Seuss so eloquently put it, ‘Unless someone
like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not!’
If we want a better world, then we have to
recognise that we must do something different. The old story of Us and Them,
Good and Evil, must be thrown away and replaced with a new story.
Anger Still Arises
Of course, anger will still arise within us. Anger is,
after all, a human emotion just like those of joy, happiness, sadness, awe,
sorrow, or delight. Just like these emotions, anger arises within us as a
response to our perception of what is happening in and around us.
Attempting to suppress anger is pointless, and most
likely ineffectual, possibly even detrimental to our mental health.
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh,
recommends us to ‘take good care of (anger).’ He further advises: ‘When
you get angry … please don’t pretend you are not angry. Don’t pretend that you
This is key – our suffering. We suffer when we see
children abused. We suffer when we watch a forest being bulldozed and the birds
and animals of the forest made homeless. We suffer when we watch on the news of
one country invading another.
If we take care of our anger, and we approach our
suffering with mindfulness, then we are reminded of our common humanity and our
connection with all life on this planet.
Recognising and working with our anger and suffering
is a long, arduous journey. Yet it is one we must take if we are to weave the
fabric back together again. We cannot expect to heal our suffering by
inflicting suffering upon someone else.
When we undertake this journey we can invite others,
even those perpetrating injustice and environmental destruction, to join us.
There is no guarantee that they will accept the invitation, However, they just
If a different story than the one of Separation is to
be told, and enacted, then if it is not those of us seeking a better
world to tell it, then who will it be?
1. Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the
Flames, Riverhead Books, New York, 2002.