The Wearing of Anger

“It took a great deal of compartmentalising to separate my personal anxieties about mass actions from recognising a movement of defiance and positivity in the face of a threatening regime.”

Kier McDougall

I used to get angry about issues. Offended by injustices and unrest and inequalities. About seeing anything or anyone seen as “other” treated with varying degrees of shabbiness.

Ideologically, I think on the left. But I’ve never been much of an activist or an agitator. In 2015, I went to a marriage equality rally in the city. The crowd spooked me, and I found the whole experience unsatisfying. Not for what it was trying to achieve, but just in how I couldn’t wholly engage with it.

That was the last time I attended a rally of any sort.

When the Womens’ Marches were taking place across the United States earlier this year, I was thrilled by the scenes whilst apprehensive about getting too caught up in it all. Of course, those marches stood for many positions I believe in. But it took a great deal of compartmentalising to separate my personal anxieties about mass actions from recognising a movement of defiance and positivity in the face of a threatening regime.

But when said threatening regime and all it stood for was making all manner of outrageous movements, I just couldn’t get angry about it. In fact, I haven’t gotten angry about issues since the beginning of last year. Since that time, bearing witness to all that’s wrong with the world just makes me sad.

That’s probably too simple a word for it, but it’s the best label I can think of. Melancholy? Disappointment? Despair, even? That all seems rather melodramatic. Because to me, the word “sad”, despite what it describes, is a word almost devoid of sting, as opposed to its alternatives. For me to say that these things make me “sad” is also to comment on the frequency with which they occur – a wearying one, if you couldn’t guess.

Don’t get me wrong. To feel the way I do about these concerns is not a thing to take pride in. I probably should get more incensed about the issues which affect me and people like me, and the issues which affect others daily in ways I don’t even have to contemplate. And all the people who can get angry and demonstrate shouldn’t see my views as anything more than those of someone who has fallen by the wayside.

It’s not a matter of principle. It’s not like I would absolutely refuse to march for a necessary cause. It’s not like I would turn my nose up at a group of people who want to make a difference. It’s just a matter of passion. As someone who used to get angry about issues, let me tell you something about that anger.

Anger is like fire. And to have fire, you need something to burn. Some fuel.

I’ve learnt, in reflecting upon my brief history of getting angry about issues, that maybe I just never had that much fuel to burn in the first place.


This blog entry is part 4 in a blog series by Kier McDougall, titled “Loose Threads“.

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