I’ve been alive 2000 years and I’ve never had time for the luxury of outrage.
The above is one of the more brilliant lines from the latest season of Dr. Who 1. The Doctor spoke it to his companion, Bill, when she wanted to scold him for accepting the death of a child. He didn’t have time for it because he was to busy doing something about the cause.
It’s a lesson from which we could all learn.
Maybe, when we’ve come to the point where we’re outraged and need others to be outraged with us, we need to step back and refrain from triggering a feeding frenzy. I’ve watched social media devolve into a swarm of jackals, each posturing as the most outraged over the event of the day. It doesn’t matter if the person is Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Jewish, progressive, liberal, conservative, or tea partier — when the outrage chum is thrown into water people come and feed. We do it because we need catharsis, which is simply being human, but in a forum like Facebook what we feel are cathartic moments shared with friends are actually a frenzy which attracts competing predators — and they want to steal your catharsis from you. This is how trolling flame-wars begin, and why they are difficult to halt.
This does not mean we shouldn’t seek out people with whom we are able to work through outrage. Unlike The Doctor, we humans do require catharsis. I have friends with whom I process that cathartic stage of response. And I process with them through things like texts, hangouts, FB messenger, and phone calls. But I do this off the public social networking stage, because at that point I have little to offer 2.
It also doesn’t mean we shouldn’t publicly share our reflections or sound a call to action. It only means we do it after the initial outrage has passed. Both measured reflections and outraged cries will attract fellow creatures from whatever pride of which we are a part, outrage catharsis on social media is a plague with many carriers. But in the latter form of post their arrival escalates the cry by calling in more people to feed. In the former those who wish to escalate often fail to find takers.
It’s just a thought.
- The episode also has the line, when Bill points Victorian England being “more colorful” than the history books, “So was Jesus, history’s a white-wash. ↩
- This is much different for a cathartic response processed in physical community, because there it can be steered toward empathy. It can also create a mob, but at least there’s a chance at a healthy process. On FaceBook all I encounter are mobs. ↩