Anger Activism Rejects Universal Human Rights. By Jeffrey Imm, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.)


 In a commitment to universal human rights, outrageous abuses against human rights and dignity will shock and outrage many, and bring feelings of anger about such abuses, but we need restraint. Anger is the opposite of the peace we seek in compassion, dignity, and respect for human rights for our fellow human beings. Without restraint, anger can build into hate. Hate becomes a growing pandemic which destroys our trust, our respect, and our cohesion as a society. We must prioritize change on ideas and behavior - not hate against individuals and identity groups. Hate is Not the Answer.  Anger Activism is Not the Answer.  We build values, communities, and societies with an outstretched hand, not an upraised fist.

 We are human beings, with all of the humanity that comes with such an identity, both good and bad. All of us. We cannot see fellow human beings as "enemies" without seeing ourselves as well, as part of that shared human family. Anger is part of our human existence as much as compassion. Our humanity also gives us free will and choices regarding how we use our internal emotions within our external society. Our human free will within our minds and our hearts gives us the opportunity to guide our lives and our actions within our shared human society.  We can choose activism and values, which will work to build constructive and lasting change.

 We can choose discipline and focus of our efforts, our words, our actions to promote dignity and compassion for all, not just for those like us and those we like. In a diverse and complex world, we do not have to agree with each other on every subject. But we can respect the dignity of all of our fellow human beings, as part of our rights and responsibilities, within our universal human rights.

 Seeking societal change to abuses of human rights and dignity requires both determination AND restraint. Discipline and compassion for vital human rights issues teaches us that we cannot have only determination or restraint, but we must use both together.

 Too often, many advocates only urge determination, with a determination based mostly on outrage and anger, rather than a set of consistent values. Anger is an easily communicated emotion as a lowest common denominator to be heard to the public. But there is very significant DIFFERENCE between being heard by the public and the message being effectively received, as a message for productive social change.

 Some Anger Activist advocates believe that focus on anger will help causes they advocate to be heard across a larger audience, and with a larger audience. They believe that this alone will result in "change." But history shows that long-term change for human right and dignity requires more. Effective and productive social change requires more than hate and anger, but such meaningful calls for change require a foundation of respect, dignity, equality, compassion, and mercy.

 Even in the modern world of social media and continuous (literally 24 hours, 7 days a week) news media coverage, the tactics of using only determined anger - largely do not result in widespread social "change." The use of anger as motivation can garner an engaged and angry mob, if the topic is "popular" enough. But do such angry mobs truly affect lasting change in human rights and dignity, or do they result in entrenching (even exacerbating) division among people?

 Anger feeds more Anger. Therefore Anger Activism feeds upon itself.  When there is nothing for Anger Activism to be angry about, it will hunt for need things to feed its anger. With a world of opportunity, mercy, dignity, love, Anger Activism can draw us into a dark path of slavery to it. If we seek to end slavery, we must also end the slavery that Anger Activism has on too many of our hearts and minds.

 A. Slavery to Anger Activism

 With anger feeding anger, our slavery to our Anger can become the defining purpose in our lives. Our slavery to Anger Activism can become all consuming.  It can blind us to our community, loved ones, professional needs, even our own safety. Anger Activism slavery can be the worst slave-master in human history. Human beings enslaved by Anger Activism cannot even imagine freedom to live, love, laugh, without their burden of Anger.

 Human beings enslaved by Anger Activism can replace the healthy blood of normal lives with the venom of hate. The greater human beings allow Anger Activism to consume them, the more toxic that venom can become in their lives. When our lives are enthralled to Anger Activism, the vision of the upraised fist can superimpose itself on every thing we see and every part of our lives.

 We can rationalize slavery to Anger Activism based on our conscience. We can tell ourselves that it is our conscience that enslaves us to such Anger Activism. We can rationalize that such slavery is necessary to defeat the "enemy" of "the other." But the only true "enemy" that Anger Activism ultimately seeks out is to trample dignity, compassion, and mercy as foundational concepts in universal human rights of our lives and of the lives of our fellow human beings.

 Hate only leads to more Hate. Hate is Not the Answer, in a world so desperately in need of mercy, dignity, and compassion. But to too many, Anger Activism and its symbol of the "upraised fist" become the defining meaning in their lives.

 If we work to free others who are persecuted by cruel individuals and regimes in the world, let us first work to free ourselves from the slavery of Anger Activism, which replaces compassion in our hearts with hate.

 B. Anger Activism and the Upraised Fist of Hate

 The upraised fist is not the symbol of human rights to our fellow human beings. The upraised fist is not the symbol of change through dignity and mercy. The upraised fist ("raised fist") has come to be normalized as a symbol of "solidarity," "support," "strength," "defiance," and "resistance." But what the raised fist truly represents is the closing of our minds and our hearts, and the violence of our hate towards "the other." The raised fist is a violent symbol that seeks to use hate to rationalize calls for power, and views justice and human rights as a zero-sum struggle. The raised fist depends on "losers" as much as it does on "winners." But our universal human rights and dignity extend to all people, not just those we like and those like us.

 The upraised fist is not a symbol of strength, but a symbol of weakness.  It is not a symbol of courage, but a symbol of quaking fear. Let us urge for the strength and courage of dignity, compassion, and mercy to those who seek to campaign for human rights. Let us call for genuine human rights activists to remember our universal rights apply to all, and that our opportunities for change begin with an outstretched hand… not an upraised fist.

 The raised fist is not a call for our shared universal human rights of equality and dignity. We do not build long-term change and progress in human rights based on hate-driven Anger Activism of "the other." Hating our fellow human beings does not free us; it enslaves us, and it becomes a never-ending slavery. Hate is the worst violence of all, as hate is a violence that can never end, and which destroys ourselves as much as it destroys those we oppose.

 We will never defeat Hate with Hate. We can win "battles," but ultimately every "victory" for Hate helps us lose the "war" for Universal Human Rights and dignity for our fellow human beings. The upraised fist of hate should chill our heart more than any other totalitarian symbol of oppression. Unlike the horrible symbols of totalitarian persecution of today or the past, at least those totalitarian regimes had some geographic, ideological, or group boundary and limitation. But the upraised fist of hate has no such boundaries and limitations. 

 There is nothing celebratory, nothing merciful, and nothing compassionate about the use of our fists to threaten our fellow human beings. The upraised fist is not a defense of dignity, but it is an abandonment of it; it represents the divisive view that dignity is only deserved to "our cause" and not to all of our fellow human beings. In times with mercy, dignity, and compassion are in greatest need, advocates of human rights cannot reach for clenched fists, but offer outstretched hands, including (perhaps especially) to those whose views they reject.

 The upraised fist of hate, and its Anger Activism, can be used anywhere, anytime, and against anyone.  It is a symbol of hate-based Anger Activism that can be adopted in any societal struggle. But where does this take our society? How do we find progress as human beings, if we retreat to raising our fists in the air in a symbol of hate towards one another?

 Our shared Declaration of Universal Human Rights is not built on Hate.  It is built on dignity. It is built on equality. It is built on peace. It is built on our "faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women." It is built on "freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear." As Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." Such universal human rights are not a foundation of hate. But on its behalf, too many will use the cruel bludgeon of hate and its Anger Activist campaigns to claim that indeed hate is not only necessary, but hate is the answer. We cannot campaign for Human Rights, if we are not campaigning for Mercy First.

 Anger Activism ignores these facts as "inconvenient," and when the factual argument is too difficult, it merely waves away the Declaration of Universal Human Rights altogether. To those can see with context and reason, these should be warning signs. But the red-hot path of hate-fueled Anger Activism can mock societal warnings and boundaries. Indeed, some intoxicated by the venom of Anger Activism can believe that destroying boundaries of trust, safety, and mercy demonstrate the "power" and "influence" of their campaigns. But such super-fueled Anger Activism of hate of "the other" can become as much as a threat to society as the "enemy" they seek to challenge.

 Universal human rights are not simply rights and dignity for you and the group or cause you are advocating.  Universal human rights are "universal" - they apply to those that you defend and those that you defy. Univeral human rights apply to those you like and those that you do not like, as well as those like you and those not like you. To make lasting change, while we challenge ideas and behavior that abuses such rights and dignity, we must do so with an outstretched hand, not an upraised fist.

Anger Activism and its upraised fist of hate is not simply an attack on "enemies" that outrage us, but an attack on all of our fellow human beings. We cannot stand for universal human rights, dignity, compassion, and mercy for all, and spend our days and nights campaigning against our fellow human beings who we call our "enemies."

 C. Anger Activism and Betrayal

 They have betrayed us, we can argue.  Or even worse, they have betrayed human rights and human dignity, we can state. This is a common rationale in Anger Activism, which rationalizes that the ends justify the means.

 So to those who we believe have betrayed our values, our society, even our human rights, do we believe that we should respond by matching their betrayal by "the other" with our betrayal of dignity, compassion, human rights towards them? 

 Let us recognize that hate-driven Anger Activism seeks to "punish" those who they feel have betrayed them, society, or our values, by seeking to make the betrayer into "the other." But what does this demonization of "the other" truly accomplish?  Does it promote dignity, mercy, compassion that are foundational in universal human rights?  Does it provide a pathway for actual and long-term change, beyond threatening "the other" who we view has betrayed us?

 We can find Anger Activism calling for societal "change," but blocking all pathways to allow for change. Other than continually using and demonizing "the other" as an accelerant to the flame of hate, for an anger feeding anger, what actual opportunity for change does Anger Activism allow?

 If the goal for Anger Activism is to "get," "destroy," "degrade," those with whom it opposes, what part of universal human rights is Anger Activism actually supporting?  Such tactics of Anger Activism and mass hate are also a betrayal of our universal human rights.  Anger Activists may rationalize such hate based on betrayal by those who they believe have done wrong, but promotion of hate-based Anger Activism results in the same betrayal of our values of universal human rights, dignity, equality, compassion, and mercy.

 As we have always known in human rights ethical mathematics, "two wrongs do not make a right."

 Betrayal is wrong, no matter who is doing the betraying, even when it is done by the Anger Activists.

 D. Blind Anger Activism, Trust, and Isolation

 If we were in a crowd, and faced danger to ourselves, our loved ones, and our fellow human beings, the gravest error would be to approach such danger blindly. Those who strike out with their eyes closed would do damage, not just to those they consider "their enemies," but also to those they consider "their friends," their loved ones, even those whom they are "fighting" to defend.

 The blindness of Anger Activism creates a common threat to all. In striking out in blind anger, no one is safe from a storm of rage. Anger Activism creates a threat not only to their "targets," but also any others in the way or associated with their "targets." This includes a threat to those whose actions and ideas we might reject, and other human beings who have the misfortune of being near the target of Anger Activism, which in a crowd of humanity can be anyone.

 If we are to look in the social mirror at blind Anger Activism, might we not ask who is the persecuted and who is the persecutor?

What does blind Anger Activism teach our society?  It teaches us that we cannot Trust.  It teaches that Trust is a social privilege only to a protected few. If any crowd can be the target of blind Anger Activism, what it teaches society that it is safer to be disconnected from fellow human beings, or at least at a distance, where a random storm of rage cannot threaten their dignity and lives.

What is the cost of Anger Activism in smashing societal Trust?  Anger Activists can succeed in publicly silencing the views of those it opposes. This does not provide any long-term solutions to societal problems. How does isolating our fellow human beings provide opportunities to change hearts and minds?  But the short-term concept of abandoning public trust and further isolating our (already isolated) public from one another is considered acceptable "ends justify the means" to Anger Activism.  It simply is not a support for our shared, universal human rights, which depends on equality, dignity, compassion and mercy to all of our fellow human beings.

 E. Anger Activism and Zero-Sum Thinking Creates a Lose-Lose Scenario

 Modern history shows that the "angry mob" approach to social change rarely makes meaningful and lasting progress in human rights and dignity. Zero-Sum thinking, the idea that one side must "lose" for others to "win," may seem rational to those with causes that do not support universal human rights. While it may be popular to those who believe they have lost "patience" with society, this is sign of the need for mature thinking on what universal human rights actually mean.

 Because if we believe in universal human rights and dignity for all, we believe in them for ALL, not just for those like us and those we like. So Anger Activism, replacing genuine human rights activism, seeks "winners" and "losers" and only results in undermining a culture that understands and respects universal human rights.

 Anger activists seek a "martial law" style abandonment of universal human rights -- for their campaign. Anger activists may choose to argue that their campaign is so urgent and unique that we simply cannot respect the universal human rights of "the other," and that a "Win-Lose" solution is the "only choice." But from a position of universal human rights, this concept of Anger Activism demanding "win-lose" situations for "the other," ultimately is not a "win-lose" for human rights, but a "lose-lose" for universal human rights.

 F. Anger Activism and Violence

 Some will argue that anger activism is necessary for the "public defense" or the defense of those described in their campaign.  Certainly, we do face real and life-threatening violence is a violent world. But the argument of anger activism and its upraised fist is too readily adapted by those who have differences, but not life and death matters. We have often seen how such anger activism also leads to violence.

 The path from "anger" alone to the "upraised fist" to actual social violence is short. That path can accept the dehumanization of "the other" that we oppose, whether it is an individual, a group, an ideology, a government, a nation. The path of mob anger seeks to deny that "the other" is human or deserves the same universal human rights and dignity that we claim for ourselves or those we champion.

 Advocates in Anger may argue that zero-sum thinking is the "only" choice. For "our side" to win, "their side" must lose, and must lose completely so that they never have the freedom to pose a threat to society again. But that is not the voice of human rights activism. That is the voice of those promoting war, and frequently those who have no concern for the consequences of war.  R.E.A.L. rejects war as a solution for every social problem. Hate and Violence are not the answer. If we respect universal human rights, we must seek a path of nonviolence and compassion, rather than a path of violence and hate.

 Anger Activism can normalize both hate and violence as the "reasonable" behavior against our fellow human beings. The Anger Activists will argue that it really just necessary "this time," until of course, it also really necessary in the next time, and the next, and the next.  The self-fueling Anger Activism can go from "defending" our fellow human beings to seeking their violent destruction.  This is how far from our shared universal human rights that Anger Activism can drive our public.

 G. Anger Activism and Survival

 To those whose dignity and lives are in peril, it is normal and natural to be outraged against those whose beliefs and actions threaten their dignity and lives. But can we consistently protect their endangered lives and dignity, based on Anger Activism alone? Will our anger protect the vulnerable? Or will our anger further endanger the vulnerable, with our blindness in anger keeping us from seeing other solutions to their needs? 

 While it may be a challenge to retain our sense of balance and context, during moments of such endangerment, this heightened moment of danger is when we must maintain focus on human rights values. That focus on human rights values must remind us that we are all, including those whose actions we oppose, fellow human beings. The shared universal human rights within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights apply to all, not just to those we like and those like us.

 In a real emergency, how do leaders guide the public? Do they urge calm, restrained, structured thinking and actions… or random, mass panic? So we know that our fellow human beings, when in peril, respond most productively to a calm and centered sense of leadership. Why do we forget this knowledge when it comes to Anger Activism? 

 If we seek societal change, we must continue to speak a language that will be heard AND received by most of the public, especially if there is genuine danger to dignity and lives. A message of reckless, hate-fueled Anger Activism may be heard by many people, but will it by effectively RECEIVED and ACTED on by our fellow human beings?

 Despite a vocal minority that believes its voice demonstrates the effectiveness of hate and Anger Activism, the reality is that these lead to very little meaningful change in society. They lead to fear, distrust, and unfortunately to more anger by others. Anger feeds Anger.  That does not make anger a productive fuel.  Anger is a fuel that is self-destructive.  We would not fuel a vehicle with a fuel that would destroy it, because then the destructive fuel would not only consume the vehicle, but also its passengers.  Yet Anger Activists believe the fuel of hate-filled anger will lead to "change." If self-destruction is "change," then that is true, but a long term commitment to human rights and dignity must have the discipline to be effective day after day after day.

 On a regular basis, most of the public distances itself from hate-filled anger, despite popularity of Anger Activism among a minority of us. A loud, hate-consumed Anger Activist voice may be heard, but that does not make it into "communication" to many of our public. We must consistently and repeatedly speak the language that most human beings are most responsive to: dignity, equality, compassion, and mercy.

The greater the danger to dignity and survival, the more essential it is that we use effective communication on human rights, rather than the wasteful (and counterproductive) noise of Anger Activism.

 H. Anger Activism, Ideas, and the Need for Action

 Much Anger Activism comes from a frustration in talk and ideas, when we intuitively sense that ACTION is needed instead.

This comes from a failure to understand that discussion on ideas is indeed "action." We may indeed be frustrated with pace of achieving change in our society. But among the many reasons for this, part of the reason can be a failure in effective communication. Hate-fueled Anger Activism may excite people who agree with the views of the activist. But this does not achieve CHANGE.

 Change requires the ability to communicate to those who DO NOT agree with activist, or who need credible, rational solutions to problems. Anyone can shout at someone else or some other group, but the activism to promote change requires a different thinking and different approach.

 A common approach is the belief that we can "shame" individuals and groups to "act." Since there is history that some will act to avoid public shame and pressure, this has become the default position for most Anger Activism. But this approach is not a method for long term social change. Publicly silencing individuals with views that we object to does not provide a long term solution to human rights and social change.  It simply makes them less willing to listen to arguments for change in the future.

 Long term and meaningful social change comes with a common position of dignity, rights, compassion, and mercy for all of our fellow human beings, including those whose views and actions we reject.  If we seek them to change their views and behavior, it is not enough for them to "hear" our shouting, we must communicate in a way that some of them will listen.  We have seen well-known figures state that you "cannot change hearts."  Our history has clearly demonstrated that this is NOT true.

 We achieve ACTION with dignity, mercy, and compassion to our fellow human beings.  Hate-fueled Anger Activism is not the answer.

 I. Anger Activism and Difficult Questions for Ourselves

 To those in Anger Activism, ultimately war against "the other" is a tactic which must be embraced on a daily, even hourly basis. Let us not confuse anger activism with human rights activism. The zero-sum approach of anger activism is not the cooperative human rights activism needed to make lasting change that respects dignity, equality, and compassion for our human family. Anger activism does not seek to persuade and inform; it seeks to bludgeon and bully. It does not seek change; it seeks surrender. Such activism of anger and hate of others is not activism for universal human rights and dignity.

 But with any meaningful social change, real activism for change must begin within us first. Can we find a path of social cooperation without anger, without bullying, without demonizing "the other"?  These are difficult questions that we must first ask ourselves, before we ask them of others.

 (a) Is anger the only message that we can convey, even if we face difficult times in human rights, oppression, and persecution of our human dignity? For those who seek to make positive change, we must find the discipline to have other choices, beyond anger, to allow us to process information and control our own behaviors.

 (b) Who is in control - anger or our conscience and responsibility for universal human rights?  Refusing to allow anger to control us as individuals is not surrender to those who would abuse human rights and dignity in society. It is simply a conscious choice that in working to solve social problems, we will refuse to allow our anger to make us part of the social problem ourselves.

 (c) Can we work for human rights in society, challenging abusive behaviors of others, of abusive ideologies or regimes, if we cannot control our own behavior? To sincere individuals who arecommitted to human rights and dignity, we must have the courage to honestly have such discussions within ourselves.

 (d) If we as individuals are so distant from peace, that we cannot find a place of peace in ourself to consider the challenges of unrestrained anger, how could we be able to work for societal change?  If our objectivity, empathy, prudence or thoughtfulness is so damaged that we cannot assess ourselves, how can we help work for change in our larger society involving others?  Peace is not simply an abstract concept or idea; peace is also a part of how we choose to live our lives.  We cannot work for peace, while constantly being against peace in every facet of our lives; this is the contradiction that Anger Activism creates in our lives.

 J. Anger Activism is Too Great a Burden and Too Divisive for Society

 Anger is not far from Danger. We must recognize Anger Activism, not as a productive form of protest, but as a real and dangerous mob threat to our shared universal human rights.

 Hate-fueled Anger Activism is the opposite of peace we seek in compassion, dignity, and respect for human rights for our fellow human beings. We must prioritize change on ideas and behavior - not hate against individuals and identity groups.

 Anger Activism rejects the Universal Human Right of dignity for all. It chooses that only some have such universal human rights, and others do not. This is a foundational rejection of universal human rights.

 Anger Activism rejects a central concept for social cohesion: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," which versions of this have been called "the golden rule." The 1993 "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic" endorsed this concept by 143 leaders encompassing the world's major faiths. While some will debate this concept, the intent is to promote an awareness of the human family deserves common respect, dignity, and mercy.

 In his many lessons on universal human rights, American human rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned against hate repeatedly, "Hate is just as injurious to the hater as it is to the hated. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity… Hate is too great a burden to bear."

 There is no question that outrageous acts and words that we see and hear in the world can inflame our passions and trouble our minds. But we must choose who is in control of our lives, our societies, and our destiny. Will it be controlled by never-ending anger and hate?  Or will it be controlled by the dignity and mercy to our fellow human beings?

 Human Rights are not built on, and will never be defended by hate.

We can Choose Mercy, Dignity, and Compassion.

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