After all that rain it rather lovely to have the spring flowers out – the latest being the Magnolia trees. I feel sorry for the Magnolia. Unfortunately, the name now just seems to conjure up the bland monotony of the paint job just before you sell a house because it is unlikely to cause offence. Which is a bit strange, as it is a spectacular tree at this time of year with its huge, ephemeral flowers – beautiful for the moments they are open until the first decent rain shower or strong wind, at which point the show is over and scattered on the ground.
But while they last, just like the blossom and the daffodils you would think the magnolia would contribute to a smile inducing epidemic of goodwill.
Well, I did see a lot of that – and related over enthusiastic wearing of summer clothes, the teenage hot pants outside Tesco on Sunday being particularly brave – and/or picnics etc at the weekend. But I also seemed to run into a lot of anger, and it made me wonder about the nature of that anger and what, if anything it sought to achieve.
Two incidents in particular stuck in my mind. First was a young man who was having a tantrum. Sorry if that sounds a bit condescending, but there is no other way of describing a young adult jumping up to take some sort of frustration out on a ‘For Sale’ board as he passed it with a fist, almost knocking it over. It was too early in the day to be sports related so I’m guessing relationship issues, but hey, we all have those. As it happens there was an older man parked nearby in a car, and he clearly said something because the next thing I knew the young man was over there, unleashing angry abuse at the car’s occupant. I think he thought he was being scary or something. I just wanted to laugh because the poor lad’s mouth, flipping up and down in the urge to get all the anger out so quickly just made him look like Beaker from the Muppets.
Eventually he gave up and stomped off, leaving some sad head shaking in his wake both from both myself and the car occupant (who had remained calm throughout the torrent).
Then there was yesterday morning, where I saw a cyclist slapping on the window and shouting at the driver of a car while we all stood stationary at a roundabout. Now, I have a lot of sympathy for cyclists (many of my friends are enthusiastic ones) and a lot of car drivers simply don’t pay enough attention. But there is a line.
As it happens, I’ve seen this cyclist a lot on this route, and he cycles aggressively and he had been weaving his way through the traffic a moment before without any really need I could see, but that is not the point.
In fact, I don’t see what the point was.
As with my check shirted Muppet two days earlier, nothing was achieved from this outpouring of anger. Did it make him feel better? I doubt it. People talk about letting off steam but it is just an excuse – and anyway a boiler just builds up pressure again, the furnace is still burning after all.
Would shouting at the driver make him or her drive better? Again, I doubt it. It just makes them upset and mad in their turn, and they’ll take it out on their co workers, other road users and their family, spreading the hate.
So, where do we get this idea that we have the right to abuse another human being? In my opinion both of these cases were abuse, nothing more and nothing less. If that cyclist had been acting the way I saw him act with say his wife, or child, it would have been considered outrageous and most people would be calling for the police. But just because it is a complete stranger it is somehow OK to lay into them.
I am not sure it can be OK, in any circumstance, if we ever want to profess to belonging to a civilised society. That kind of observed anger is an animal response and it just begets anger and retaliation. It never leads to anything positive.
Anger can be positive as it provides drive and determination and if channelled appropriately. I can be angry at Government policy, or corporate activity I don’t agree with, or the actions of an individual stupid driver, but I should channel that anger into informed peaceful protest, action at the ballot box or purchase choice or a quiet word of admonition. My mother always used to get the job of taking stuff back to a shop or ‘complaining’ in any context because she never raised her voice and frankly charmed them into not only refunding but also often ended up with some kind of bonus on the side because people were so grateful she was so graceful about it.
Slamming on a window and shouting abuse at the entrance to a roundabout is, in my opinion, self destructive and stupid. Calmly pointing out to someone they almost killed you is much more likely to get a shocked response which just might stick in the idiot driver’s head and make them remember to be more careful next time. I mean it.
I need to remember to do it myself. Because the red faced blustering and ineffectual monster I turn into when I lose my temper really has no place in the world. I need to act with a lot less anger and self righteousness and a lot more grace.