Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Anger v. Indignation

Several years ago, when I used to manage an independent bookstore/cafe in Midtown Memphis, I had the pleasure of reading the book to your left, How to Defend Yourself Against Alien Abduction. (Hey, what can I say? A woman cannot survive on Derrida alone!) The book doesn't include a single hint of irony in all of its 260 pages, but I couldn't put it down. For the first couple of chapters, I laughed so hard that I cried, but it slowly drew me in with its quasi-scientific arguments and Oprahesque sincerity. For the next two years, I recommended it to everyone I knew... and then, one day, I just kind of forgot about it.

[Testimonial Note: As far as I know, I have not been abducted by aliens since reading this book.]

So imagine my delight when today, stopping to grab a cup of coffee on my way home from the office, I see someone reading my little lost treasure. I no longer own a copy of the book, since I bought it and then gave it away over a dozen times back in the day, but some things I remember distinctly. The book is divided into 9 chapters, each concentrating on a specific "Resistance Technique." The techniques are as follows: (1) Mental Struggle (2) Physical Struggle (3) Righteous Anger (4) Protective Rage (5) Support from Family Members (6) Intuition (7) Metaphysical Methods (8) Appeal to Spiritual Personages (9) Repellents. My favorites were (1) and (3), but in particular, the finer distinctions that the author makes between the two.

"Resistance Technique #1: Mental Struggle" involves what the author calls "righteous indignation." She distinguishes this from "righteous anger" (Resistance Technique #3) in the following:

Anger differs from the sense of indignation that the experiencer must feel in order for Mental Struggle to succeed; that technique, in its simplest form, is purely mental, while Righteous Anger surges into the realm of the emotion. It is related to certain aspects of anger's more intense forms-- rage, wrath, animosity, hostility, fury and ire-- but differs in significant ways. When used as a technique to drive away harassing entities, it is a more deliberate and calmer emotion; it must be carefully controlled by the experiencer if it is to be effective. Otherwise, it can boil into the uncontrolled rage and depression that prevented abductee Billy Wolfe from successfully ridding himself of continued violation. It might be likened to the attitude of the badgered news anchor in the classic movie Network, who states in unequivocal terms, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore."

Now, I don't know if you've seen Sidney Lumet's classic film Network-- I must admit that it's been years since I've seen it myself-- but I don't know that the character of Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch, who is mad as hell) is exactly what I would describe as a man possessed by a "more deliberate and calmer emotion." I mean, he's suicidal in the beginning of the film, and destined to be executed at the end. Nevertheless, it is true that this very anger, righteous as it is, proves to be a highly effective form of "resistance" which, I suppose, is the point we are supposed to take in our battle against aliens.

Of course, that's not to say that Righteous Anger (or it's more "mental" counterpart, Righteous Indignation) are not ultimately effective in defending yourself against alien abduction... I'm just questioning the nuances of this description.

And, I figured, there was just one more day left in October, so I could afford a "throwaway" blog.

Happy Halloween!


Chet said...

one person's garbage is another person's brain ... hahahah.

so would it be the height of foolishness to ask what the purpose of this distinction between anger vs. indignation is for?

i'm impressed that this book has such distinctions. it doesn't go on the blacklist.

yet i must say, i think the description of beale is supposed to be righteous indignation, and not anger. granted, it may be a poor description.

so anger when indignation doesn't work? but you don't want to be violated like billy wolfe by getting too angry. although it strikes me not even indignation would have helped billy wolfe.

kgrady said...

I agree that the example is pretty poorly chosen, though that doesn't compromise the usefulness of the distinction. Then again, I suppose we have to wonder about the clarity of the distinction if even its own author cannot tell the difference between examples of anger and indignation.

Speaking of Halloween, you know what I'm indignant about at the moment? The fact that Bulgarians don't even bother to observe this most important of holidays. I even had a great idea for a costume, but now it's just going to waste. Nobody better cross me today or I just might boil into uncontrolled rage.

Doctor J said...

Poor, poor Billy Wolfe and his "continued violations"... for his sake, we should really try to clear this up.

Incidentanlly, the definition of "indignation" on Wiktionary reads:

1. anger aroused by some perceived offense.
2. righteous anger or disgust

So, it seems that indignation alrady includes righteous anger (at least according to the American populus), which makes me wonder what the adjective "righteous" in front of "indignation" adds?

Kyle, what was the costume?

Doctor J said...

An excerpt from *How to Defend Youself Against Alien Abductions*:

"Take the case of Billy Wolfe, whose abduction in 1974 left him with 'a small, hard object' in his groin and an inability to socialise with women. Understandably, he blamed the UFOs which visited him regularly thereafter for his lack of success in finding a wife."

As Kyle would say... word.
TOTALLY understandable!

Nazareth said...

Anger v. Indignation? All I know is that I've been much happier in my life ever since I learned how to unleash my haughty inner b*tch.

Doctor J said...

I'm with Naz. Screw anger and indignation. Bitchiness is the most highly effective resistance technique.

Even aliens don't mess with that.