I am reading a rather intriguing book at the moment, Hiding in Plain Sight by Sarah Kendzior. Before diving into this tome, I had finished reading Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall and How to be Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. There was not a specific reason for choosing these particular books to read in such secession outside of interesting topics and recommendations. Oddly though, all three works brought out the same reaction from me: rising anger.
Now, on one hand, this is obviously a good thing. Art, in its many forms, is meant to garner a reaction from its audience. It does not have to be an Earth shattering epiphany nor a huge emotional catharsis, but a measure of, for lack of a better term, “bad” art would be utter indifference and apathy to it. Think of it this way, a movie can be utterly terrible, but still entertaining, and that will cause people to still discuss, analyze, and even re-watch it, even if only for schlock value. Same with good or great movies. However, if a film is just okay. Not badly done or nothing technically wrong, but not anything memorable or interesting then it is simply forgotten or rendered moot. Thus, art is meant to draw something from its audience, but that is a conversation for another time.
What I really want to consider is the anger that the books mentioned earlier brought to the surface. I genuinely feel like it was a righteous anger. It was rage against systems of oppression and obvious truths that are ignored by the powerful for the sake of keeping power. It was in response to oppression and forced submission for nothing more than greed and feeling of superiority. Frankly, I was pissed reading these books, and it was not surprising to feel that, but I began to question what to do with those emotions.
There is a well known quote, “Knowledge without practice is useless. Practice without knowledge is dangerous,” that I believe is applicable to this situation as well. I am unsure if Confucius really stated the previously listed, but the message still rings true. Anger, rage, joy, sadness, and virtually any other emotion should be felt, but still need to be driven toward something. Yes, it is cathartic and euphoric to have an emotional release whether positive or negative just like acquiring knowledge is, at times, in and of itself satisfying, but what is the point if nothing is done with it?
Emotions can fuel us in our paths toward action if they are managed and focused. Otherwise, feelings are fleeting and can be, most likely, destructive. We get angry and lash out and react in an unhealthy way. Or we wallow in melancholy without addressing the root of our sadness. Even with joy, we will revel in that feeling but not necessarily delve into what caused that experience or how to continue or replicate it. Emotions are wonderful but like everything else momentary. As they should be. We need to feel things for the sake of our own psyche and well being. However, they should also fuel us to action.
Every great movement in history began with and because of someone’s passion. But it did not end there. That transient feeling moved that person, group, organization to learn, to organize, and to take action. The rage and anger I felt reading the words of those authors was justified, understandable, even, arguably, righteous, but it will ultimately be worthless if it goes nowhere. Now, the impetus is on me to figure out what to do with those emotions. To see how they drive me to learn, to take action against the inequities and injustices discussed, to actually help the communities and people discussed, and to, essentially,