Another mass shooting in the US and Angry Men are at the forefront again. Why?
There has been another shooting in the good ole US of A. Another monster, this time with his mate, shooting up innocent victims, causing chaos and destruction.
Angry Men again, what are we to do to stop these monsters, can we institute a program in schools, teach men not to kill? Could we set up some Minority Report police force capable of putting these men behind bars before they kill? Maybe we could get NSA to write a computer program that monitors men and can analyze shopping habits and internet history patterns to determine who they are so they can be watched and monitored.
Or maybe we could stop creating the monsters that kill us. Why are Angry Men different, why do they snap and go postal, explode like primed powder kegs? I believe it’s in the way we create these monsters. I get the feeling that as a society we would rather wring our hands and moan about Angry Men then spend the time to help them. That we don’t care that we create them, but damn it sells some papers and we can feel good when we post our commiserations on Facebook. If we want to work out why these men explode we need to take a step back and stop blaming them for being monsters for a minute. These men turned into monsters at some stage, yet I doubt most of them were born that way.
Why is it different for these men? People flare up all the time but the damage is usually local – a hurt feeling or two, a few tears, maybe even a tantrum. For these Angry Men though it must start young. Nearly all men work out early in life that showing emotions are bad. It will get you labeled as a sissy, ostracized, makes you unattractive to women, needy, weak and a whole host of other negative outcomes. Most of us though find outlets through sport, through one or maybe two close friends, a therapist, and a partner or through the things we do. Myself personally I write, it works for me. Yet these men build internal walls, strong ones. Why?
What is it with the Angry Men that their emotional container is so well built? To use the bomb metaphor this becomes their powder keg. Could we teach them healthy ways of expression and coping when they are young, could we as a society stop judging men that express their hurt and pain as weak. It wouldn’t be that hard would it, just to allow a boy to be human? A boy who is allowed to be human probably wouldn’t build the walls that eventually turn him into a monster.
Just because a man’s walls are strong doesn’t mean they will lose the plot and explode. Some men will fill themselves with shame, guilt, loss and grief. These feelings aren’t explosive though. The men who fill their keg with these emotions are more likely to implode, sabotage their lives through addiction or kill themselves. Society mostly considers these men irrelevant anyway, they aren’t important in the grand scheme of things, they are only our friends, brothers, fathers, sons and uncles. The monsters, they matter though, these are the ones that kill us. Inside their walls, inside their powder keg, they have filled it up with something different. It’s filled with anger, rage, pain and fear, an emotional cocktail that could be set off at with the smallest spark. Their walls are good though, strong and sturdy. They look like quiet people, they seem to be in control, the powder keg holds it all in well.
Yet this still is not enough. When the keg is full it overflows. Sure these men erupt, they fight, they hurt others, they have problems maintaining control and a lot of them get picked up and sent to anger management courses, or prison. They aren’t monsters, not quite yet, just men who learnt to hold things in too well and when they fill up they erupt, but not yet explode.
To truly turn an Angry Man into a monster his keg needs to be sealed and those emotions trapped inside with nowhere to go. To turn him from a human into a monster we need to dehumanize him first. We as a society need to tell him his pain and anger isn’t real, that the explosive material inside his keg is a figment of his imagination. We need to minimize his hurt, deny it, and tell him he is wrong to feel these things. He’s probably white, he’s male, and he’s privileged. He should just shut up and disappear. He has no right to feel pain, there are so many other people who are more deserving of their pain then he is. At this point he reaches a paradox, his pain, his anger is real to him. He feels it, it hurts and he is faced with the contradiction that he is either a man who feels and can’t release it or a monster who doesn’t. Guess which one he chooses. Thus the monster is born. When we have done this to him his journey from boy to monster is complete. We have successfully created an Angry Man bomb ready and primed to go off.
At this point it doesn’t matter what spark lights his fuse. It’s inconsequential. It could be the loss of a job, divorce, breakup, a string of rejections, anything at all really. It doesn’t matter. The anger once felt is now lit, the timer is counting down and all he needs is a target, most likely the people who applied heat to his fuse. We try to look at him wondering why a single event, or a couple of simple things the rest of us in society deal with every day has set him off. Yet a spark is not a bomb. The bomb was created long before the fuse was lit. We focus on the outcome rather than on how the Angry Man bomb was made in the first place.
There is an answer though, yet it is as hard as it is simple. We could stop this bomb from being built at any stage, all it takes is compassion, understanding and a few life lessons. Why is it we are so opposed to a man needing help. To a man, or boy, being allowed to express his hurt, pain and anger. All these men need is often just someone to listen, someone to show them a way forward, show them how to deal with life in a healthy manner. Why is this such a hard thing for society to provide for him? You could argue it’s his personal responsibility, yet the evidence is in that they don’t know better, they don’t know how to move forward, the way they have of coping is to go out and shoot people.
I think society would rather hate a monster than help a needy man, a lesson he doesn’t forget. I think as a society we would rather find a way to kill the monsters then let a boy be human. We would rather listen to all the ways we could stop these monsters than take the time to listen to an Angry Man, find out why he is angry, validate that, quite often, he has a right to be angry. Show him enough compassion to help him empty his keg and deal with emotions in a healthy way. I think sometimes we would rather our own pain be more real, more deserving of compassion and felt more deeply than another’s and we forget that other people would like to be heard too. Everyone’s pain is equally as real to them and when we stop listening and tell them their pain isn’t real we deny them their humanity. That’s what I think at any rate, when we stop listening we create the monsters that walk amongst us.
Photo: Flickr/David Goehring
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
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