Fascist Friends, Socialist Fist Shakers and the Angry Die Young

Fascists are good at propaganda.  You don’t have to dig too deeply to see that these old skills have been revived to very good effect recently. A quick glance at this years European election results tells all.

“I can’t believe my friends are “liking” and sharing stuff from “Britain First””  a friend of mine said a couple of days ago.  Unfortunately, I can (believe it, that is).  I think it’s pretty easy to make people scared and angry.

For more about Britain First go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britain_First)

I suppose, back in the day when we were roaming the plains of Africa, being suspicious of strangers was a good strategy.  They might be about to steal our food, our tools or even our women. I suppose back then, encounters with strangers would have been few and far between and so these stressful situations would be limited.  No so now.  There are 7 billion of us on the planet, many of us clustered together in towns and cities and so, obviously, as I ‘m sure you’ve already worked out, we’re going to see strangers pretty much all of the time.  I’m using stranger here as a catch-all term and not simply to denote someone we don’t already know.  I mean people who speak a different language, different nationality, different sexual orientation, different religion, colour, race, culture or gender.

Given that we humans are more mobile and much more numerous than ever, I think there are two obvious ways we can handle frequently encountering difference.  Join a Fascist party and try by various (any) means to keep the “strangers” at bay or decide to enjoy, embrace and benefit from diversity. Although my intuition tells me that enjoying, embracing and benefitting sound better than being suspicious, hateful and angry, this approach when encountering diversity doesn’t just get the nod and automatically become a GLP.  That would be like reading something on Facebook, liking it and sharing it without giving it any thought. Just not good enough.  So here’s the common sense and science behind the GLP Avoid Being Angry and therefore Enjoy, Embrace and Benefit from Diversity.

Angry and Scared = Greater Control? NoHulking out

It’s a great trick used by political parties.  While your head is full of “Grrrrrrr” and righteous indignation you are much less likely to think things through clearly and much more likely to accept an argument without question.  Everyone gets angry from time to time and it’s a really easy (and sometimes enjoyable) emotion to feel.

Although used to great effect by Far Right organisations it is by no means only those on that side of the political spectrum that are prepared to recruit this way.  There are plenty of Socialist fist shakers, amongst others, who regularly spit fury and invite us to join in. All this scary, angry stuff pushes us towards feeling out of control of our own lives and that can easily lead us to losing control of our emotions just to make matters worse.

It’s no surprise to me that deep thinkers and effective activists across thousands of years have said no to anger. I like a quote as much as the next person and so here are a couple:

Plato “There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.”

Martin Luther King Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Mahatma Ghandi “Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding”.

It’s not just these philosophical worthies that believe that anger has drawbacks.  The world of science is chock-a-block with studies detailing how anger impacts on our health and wellbeing and the following are just a few.

  • A Harvard Medical School Study of 1,623 heart attack survivors found that when subjects habitually became angry during emotional conflicts, their risk of subsequent heart attacks was more than double that of those that remained calm.
  • Men who complain of high anxiety are up to six times more likely than calmer men to suffer sudden cardiac death.
  • A 20-year study of over 1,700 older men by the Harvard School of Public Health found that worry about social conditions significantly increased the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • An international study of 2,829 people between the ages of 55 and 85 found that individuals who reported the highest levels feelings of control over life events—had a nearly 60% lower risk of death compared with those who felt relatively helpless in the face of life’s challenges.
  • Several studies have found that optimism leads to greater happiness and longevity. Researchers at the Pittsburgh School of Medicine did a study on post-menopausal women and found that they were healthier and longer-lived than their pessimistic counterparts.
  • Three 10-year studies concluded that emotional stress was more predictive of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease than smoking; people who were unable to effectively manage their stress had a 40% higher death rate than non-stressed individuals.
  • In a study of over 5000 middle-aged people, those with the highest ability to emotionally self-regulate were over 50 times more likely to be alive and without chronic disease 15 years later than those with the lowest self-regulation scores.

For more on these studies go to http://www.shift.is/2013/11/state-mind-affecting-well/

So it seems that getting angry and feeling all those other negative emotions are not the best thing to do if you want to live a long and healthy life.

Ignore the injustices, bury your head and smile? No!

There is a great book by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan called “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict”. http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-15682-0/why-civil-resistance-works  it’s a long title and a long and pretty dense read, but in a nutshell the authors conclude that non-violent resistance, over the last hundred years or so has had much better and more durable results than those which were violent.  Whatever we deem the problems of modern society to be, militaristic, aggressive action it seems, is not the way to go about change.

So when our Fascist friends and the Socialist fist shakers pop up on our newsfeeds peddling anger, fear, mistrust and intolerance how about this? Keep calm, think straight, and if you can, state your case. Being angry isn’t going to change the world, only your health and the enjoyment of your life.

So… Avoid Being Angry and therefore Enjoy, Embrace and Benefit from Diversity seems to me to have passed muster as a GLP.