A puzzlement

Is it alright to express outrage against excessive displays of outrage? I ask this more in curiosity than in anger. And I am curious about the full range of outrageousness: not only the “spittle-flecked nutties” I associate with conventional left-liberal thinking, but the more passive-aggressive forms developed in Canada, by which the target of the original outrage receives the girlish “silent treatment,” then is quietly unpersoned.

Outrage begets outrage, until we remember that Our Lord advised against resisting evil with evil. It was a saying that might be misunderstood, because some forms of resistance are good, and should not be bunched together with the bad ones. There is a place in society for a good hanging; or in war for a variety of thoughtful ordnance; or other focused, decisive acts of problem-fixing violence. Justice may demand it; though let me hope I will not be thought too liberal by adding that justice also demands certain procedural regularities, unavailable in e.g. a Kangaroo Court or Human Rights Tribunal.

There is, however, no place for ill-considered revenge; and the possibility of defeating hatred with love need not be dismissed out of hand.

“I am outraged by your outrage, sir,” is a line I have tried in several situations. Or, “ma’am,” as the case may be — spoken in the voice of unturbulent irony. It worked once, as anything might, calculated to make one’s assailant laugh. The trick is to undermine his self-importance, and this is easier to perform while it is over-exposed. Mere escalation will not have this effect, nor any other form of competition in which spectators are left to vote on which party is the greater lunatic.

For God, in His infinite foresight, has so arranged the human condition that reason has at least a chance. The Christian yoga of self-containment puts anger to its proper uses. Or, should gentle reader prefer: the principles of balance and leverage in judo. The winner in any pugilistic match, including those which are conducted with firearms, is most likely to be the contestant who is thinking more clearly. Anger may serve to inspire us to action, but makes a poor formulator of tactics. (We do want to win, don’t we?)

In the Empörungsgesellschaft of our times (see penultimate Idlepost), it is well to remember that outrage never works for long. It makes a dramatic opening for conflict, but can only be sustained with the sort of acting which, as we are beginning to see in Natted States Merica and elsewhere, soon wears on any audience. “Yes,” one might reflect to oneself, “it is quite outrageous that they are crazy and we are sane.”

But it is important that we manifest sanity.