Happens to me all the time: I say something to a group of people that makes so much sense and is so eloquent, when I stop talking I expect a standing ovation. (Guess I don't have a self-esteem problem.)
Last Saturday I made some observations about "angry white men" that filled this bill. It was during a meeting of our monthly Salon discussion group.
One of the members, Steve, has been reading Michael Kimmel's book, "Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era." Here's part of the Amazon book description:
Kimmel locates this increase in anger in the seismic economic, social and political shifts that have so transformed the American landscape. Downward mobility, increased racial and gender equality, and a tenacious clinging to an anachronistic ideology of masculinity has left many men feeling betrayed and bewildered. Raised to expect unparalleled social and economic privilege, white men are suffering today from what Kimmel calls "aggrieved entitlement": a sense that those benefits that white men believed were their due have been snatched away from them.
Listening to Steve talk about the book, fueled by a powerful mental-mix of strong coffee and a large glass of Oregon Pinot Noir, I suddenly realized the foundational cause of not only white men anger, but that of everybody.
I get angry frequently. Not frothing mad anger. More like seething resentment anger -- a feeling that stuff is happening which shouldn't be, whether to me or someone else (including society in general). Heck, this is the emotional source of many blog posts. Such as this recent one.
But as self-serving as this may sound, I see a considerable difference between my anger and that of the angry white men described by Kimmel. They are, as noted in another part of the book description, trying to stop the tide of history.
The future of America is more inclusive and diverse. The choice for angry white men is not whether or not they can stem the tide of history: they cannot. Their choice is whether or not they will be dragged kicking and screaming into that inevitable future, or whether they will walk openly and honorably – far happier and healthier incidentally – alongside those they’ve spent so long trying to exclude.
I told the discussion group that it isn't surprising when people who are divorced from reality get angry. After all, reality is hugely stronger than any individual, any group, any nation, any anything that denies what is.
I cited a book that I'd recently finished reading: "Buddhist Biology: Ancient Eastern Wisdom Meets Modern Western Science."
The author, David Barash, persuasively argues that both science and Buddhism agree about three important aspects of reality: (1) There is no such thing as an enduring "self" or soul; (2) Everything changes, except the laws of nature that produce the ever-changingness; (3) Interdependence and interconnectedness rules the reality roost.
(See this post from my Church of the Churchless blog.)
Thus it isn't surprising that angry white men are feeling the way they do. They are at odds with reality. And reality has a way of kicking butt. People can scream "this can't be happening!" Yet, if it is real, it is. Deal with it.
Whether someone is an angry white man or anyone else, they're going to be chronically disappointed if they fail to recognize those three above-mentioned truths of science and Buddhism.
There's no enduring "I" inside our heads. There's no way to escape change. There's no entity that stands alone unto itself. Everything and everyone is part of a complex, interrelated, ever-changing river of reality that never stops flowing.
Angry white men want to stop the music, freeze the dancing, keep culture as it was in the not-so-good old days.
Which isn't possible.
Societies evolve, like everything else. There's nothing wrong with wanting to try to change things; this is a part of ever-changing interconnected reality: self-less beings are drawn to act in certain ways by causes and effects beyond their understanding or control.
Staying calm when things don't go the way we want them to, though, seemingly is possible. Such is a teaching of Buddhism. Along with common sense as expressed in the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
(I'd leave out "God," substituting "reality.")