“Let fury have the hour/ Anger can be power/ You know that you can use it” – The Clash, “Clampdown”
I may just be Middle-Aged Against the Machine but I greatly appreciate the role anger plays in creativity. When you think about it, our artistic endeavors are driven by all of our emotions. As humans, we are ashamed of some of those emotions or we push them far back for fear of what they might do to us or through us. Artists create dangerously because they explore those emotions and then have the guts to present them to the public. This opens them up for rejection, shaming, blaming and misunderstanding.
Anger is an emotion that can lead to destructive things but it is also an emotion that can lead to constructive things. It is a tricky one, that way. But when anger is left unvented or unexpressed it becomes truly dangerous. Then it festers into fear and self-loathing and depression and anxiety. Then anger can destroy the person it lingers in or someone in that person’s reach who may very well not deserve the fury that comes their way.
I, personally, am very grateful for the artists with the courage to give full vent to anger in their art. Because they do so, they provide healthier alternatives to the expression of that anger to those exposed to their art and, in many cases, promote a proactive way of dealing with the anger, either in promoting internal change for the better or external change for the better. I realize this is a slippery slope. Anger, as with all our human emotions, comes packed with all kinds of hidden trap doors. But it is clear to me that artists are there, for the most part, not to channel things like anger to drive us deeper into the abyss; artists present the anger and give us a way to vent it in order to drive us towards the light.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge this isn’t for everyone. But perhaps we’d all benefit from escaping civility and “niceness” now and again to tap into the power of anger. I know I’ve appreciated how cleansing it can feel to put on some Rage Against the Machine when I look at my world. The next step is the change that is needed, in me and in the world around me, and if I’m willing and if I have the courage to take that step. Anger can be power. Used correctly it can also be very healthy.
Here is a video of a live performance of “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine from 1993. It is raw and crackling with energy, both on the stage and in the crowd. Warning: This is not the radio-friendly version of this song. If you are offended by repeated F-bombs, do not watch. But if you are, you may want to ask yourself why you are offended by that and not by the behavior of the powers that be, or the abuses done to powerless people all over the world by the powerful. It is stunning to me how we’ll go to great lengths to keep out profanity but allow such profane behavior to continue, especially by those with the money and the authority, with no resistance.
That’s my spiel. Here’s RATM: