I was listening to some old Bad Religion that I haven’t played much in the last ten years. A lot of people I know who weren’t into punk rock just thought it was loud, chaotic and aggressive, but I was always into bands who were singing about something, who cared about something, maybe who imagined a better or a different world, and there was always this thread of optimism running beneath the rage.
I get it. Secretly, I’m really angry. You wouldn’t think it if you knew me, but I’m angry at a chaotic world where bad things happen to good people all the time. I’m angry that eleven-year-old kids can get diabetes, and people who never did any harm to anyone can die young, poor and oppressed.
I’m angry that bigots and tyrants are free to exert their influence over the masses and then blame the marginalised for their plight.
But even then – is it their fault that the world is chaotic?
Want a cure for the diseases that ail us? Rich people have to care about poor people, instead of blame them. ‘Personal responsibility’ is a concept people talk about, but what is it really – other than a socially sanctioned way of blaming the sick and the oppressed? What if you can’t afford a personal trainer and private nutritionist? Follow a low-fat diet for ten years then get diabetes? Only to be told it’s your fault – when you were trying to be good and do what you’re told? Who’s taking responsibility for the dissemination of shitty health-care information?
Expressing these thoughts makes me feel young and a little self-conscious, but the status quo would attempt to dismiss my objections as youthful naiveté, so fuck ‘em.
The thing is, being angry isn’t fun. It’s not too pleasant, but is it useful?
I don’t know.
I used to think I could change my body through strength of will, discipline, dedication and all that shit. I had to believe body transformations were possible because if something that simple couldn’t be done – what hope did I have of curing diabetes? Of overcoming adversity?
I used to think the way to deal with a chaotic, hard world was to be tough and capable. But how hard can you make yourself, without becoming brittle and fragile?
In recent months, I started to realise the extent of my anger. It’s not just indignation. And it’s great to finally acknowledge it, rather than go on pretending everything’s cool. But people I talk to about it tend not to believe me, because I’m so calm and understanding. There’s a reason I seek out calmness, and there’s a reason I value kindness.
The thing is - in a world that’s hard, being hard is unimpressive.
Being kind, however – now that’s something. I knew the value of it all along – it’s precious for many reasons, not the least of which is because it’s so rare.
Be kind to yourself. There are already enough judgemental, prejudicial assholes out there who will tell you you’re not good enough – you have to be different – but you don’t have to be one of them. You get to live life on your terms. And I suppose you have to – (was it Kant who said it first?) we are both blessed and cursed with freedom of will.