Why Are People So Angry Today?

The Insanity of Rage


“When you get into a fit of rage, you are totally oblivious to the injuries it has caused the victims. The extreme stage of rage is a murderous impulse to obliterate others.”

Dr. John Ng

“If this can keep the communication going and shine the light and keeps us progressing and not regressing, that’s the main thing.”

LeBron James, four-time NBA
Most Valuable Player, whose home was vandalized


Rage is on the rise. People are angry. Very angry. Look at what has happened in our world.

  • London was under attack with seven people killed and 48 wounded, after a van drove into the crowd on London Bridge and three men jumped out to stab people in Borough Market in June 2017.
  • Suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people in the bombing disaster at a pop concert by Ariana Grande in Manchester in May 2017.
  • There was a rampage at the Resorts World Manila casino where 36 victims died in an attack by a lone gunman, Jessie Carlos, in June 2017.
  • Marawi, a southern city in the Philippines was under siege by ISIS militants, with thousands trapped and 19 civilians murdered by the militants in May 2017.
  • Bryan Moles, a heavily armed man with an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, handgun and ammunition, was arrested at the Trump International Hotel in Washington near the White House in May 2017, which averted potentially another disaster.
  • After Donald Trump’s election in 2016, protest marches spontaneously erupted in the major cities in the US. ‘Trumpism’ or “Making America First and Great Again” has driven many to become more xenophobic.
  • Britain and France are divided along economically advantaged and disadvantaged, right- and left-wing and for-EU (European Union) and anti-EU lines, resulting in Brexit for Britain, and 33.9 percent voting for the right-wing Marine Le Pen in France. This is symptomatic of the growing dissent and division among fellow citizens.
  • In Jakarta, the former Governor of Jakarta, Ahok, as he is affectionately called, was jailed for two years for allegedly blaspheming the Koran in May 2017. This resulted in tens of thousands of hard- line Muslim demonstrations in Jakarta over this incident. The
    verdict divided the country after he was jailed, but the outpouring
    of sympathy and love for him was evident as thousands kept vigil for weeks.
  • In Singapore, there was the incident of a trio arrested for committing rash acts of throwing bowls, tables and chairs in a Teochew Porridge restaurant over a S$28 food bill in May 2017.
  • In June 2017, just before the NBA Finals between his team, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Golden State Warriors, the basketball superstar and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player of the year LeBron James’ home was vandalized with racial slurs.
  • He put it most bluntly: “Being Black in America is tough and we’ve got a long way to go as a society for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America. It just goes to show that racism will always be part of the world, part of America, and that hate, especially for African Americans, is living every day.”
  • He hopes that this incident could move people closer to ending such hatred by saying, “If this can keep the communication going and shine the light and keeps us progressing and not regressing, that’s the main thing.”
  • Why all this rage today? How you can be derailed by rage?


  1. Rage is an emotional state triggered by hot buttons and the uncontrollable Amygdala Hijack


Rage is a psychological and emotional state. It is the acute expression of outbursts of unrestrained passion. If anger is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility, then rage is violent, irrepressible anger. Rage is a vehement desire or passion.


Rage has been described as the ego’s big gun by which it tries to restore its feeling of control over others. Rage problems are conceptualized as the inability to process emotional or life’s experiences, because the capacity to regulate emotions has never been sufficiently developed or has been temporarily lost due to recent trauma.


The term “rageaholic” is often used to describe people who slip into a fit of rage whenever they need to bolster their sagging ego. You have to watch against this. When you get into a fit of rage, you are totally oblivious to the injuries it has caused the victims. The extreme stage of rage is a murderous impulse to obliterate others. This may explain the behaviour of Salman Abedi as well as the senseless killings of innocents in Paris, London, Kabul, and Boston.


These rageaholics require psychological intervention, personal counselling, ideological rehabilitation, prolonged therapy and/or jail terms. There are deep hurts, psychological scars and destructive mental patterns that have to be addressed. Seeking professional help is recommended for such people.


In lesser ways, your rage is often triggered by “hot-buttons”, which are words/phrases and behaviours that cause the Amygdala Hijack (discussed in Part 2, Chapter 8). The trio, who went on a rampage, throwing chairs and tables over a S $28 meal, were probably reacting emotionally to something that was said or done. Of course, they were intoxicated, and that made matters worse!


  1. Rage is supplanted by suppressed bitterness, wilful revenge and unbridled hatred


Free, sometimes irresponsible speech has become a source of this hatred and revenge. The journalists of Charlie Hebdo experienced this first hand when their offices were attacked. Unfortunately, much of this free speech has become irresponsible satire and injurious insults, funded by libertines, business leaders and politicians with hidden agendas.


In the past, the primary function of newspapers and magazines was to inform, and secondarily, to make money. But the reverse is now true. Now, they have to make money first and then inform secondarily.


Whatever sells gets the headlines and repetitions. Professor Timothy Garton Ash, historian and author, puts it most candidly: “So all our newspapers become more sensational, more partisan, more celebrity, and more sensationalists, more ‘if it bleeds, it leads. If it roars, it scores’”. The result: the amount of investigative reporting, non- partisan, evidenced-based, and clear in-depth analysis is drowned out or dried up.


The idea of free speech, which is supposed to be the bastion of democracy, has become a victim of money-making businesses, prejudices, bitterness, hatred and revenge. But free speech has become distorted in our times. It is imperative that you and I are ever-conscious of our prejudices.


In ancient Greek society, they talked about free speech in two concepts. Parrhesia was free speech for the public good, not saying whatever comes into our heads. The motivation and purpose was key. Unfortunately, in today’s society, the common good has been compromised by personal agenda, self-serving interests, and subgroups with extreme positions.


The other Greek concept is isegoria, which means equal speech where everyone has in principle the equal right to speak. This is the idea of open dialogue and debates on opposing ideas, listening to evidence and facts and then coming out with the best solutions. It is American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes’ concept of the hope that the best ideas will win out and best policies will be chosen, based on evidence- based and reality-based discourse.


Sadly, this is hardly the case today. The world is dominated by fake news, superficial short-messages, populist misinformation and extremist propaganda of all kinds. You have to be careful of what you read, how you interpret and the source of the information.


  1. Rage is caused by socialized distorted prejudices and ideologies


Undiscerning readers of fake news, distorted prejudices and extreme religious ideologies have become the new normal today. Very few people want to know the truth. Social media allows people to stay in their cloistered bubbles where they don’t learn about other, different views and beliefs.


Some 30 to 40 percent of the news Americans get is from Facebook or Twitter. In China, it is Weibo or WeChat. The frightening part is that these pieces of news are repeated massively, colored by readers’ own biases and left uncorrected when they are incorrect. You are fed such news hundreds of times every day, purporting to be facts and then re-tweeted, unadulterated.


For instance, a purported message written by Ahok, the former Governor of Jakarta, after he went into prison, was sent to me on WhatsApp by some well-meaning friends. I checked through my sources and discovered that the message was written by a fan of Ahok. I had to inform all my friends of this misinformation.


Misinformation and distortion can be disseminated as though they are from a real person and a real source. Professor Ash warns that “Anonymity has a huge contribution to the level of hate speech and abuse and even death threats online.”[i]


The little gadgets in your pockets — the smartphones in the hands of three billion people, have become the channels through which these instant short messages are spread, without checking for facts or depth of analysis. The internet has become an infinite platform for all kinds of fragmented, distorted and unsolicited news. This has led to cyber bullying, uncensored hate videos going viral, and worse still, socialized extremism.


According to Professor Ash, the result is that it has also become “a very powerful echo-chamber effect… Donald Trump’s supporters hear only Fox News and Breitbart and talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh and their friends on Facebook and Hillary Clinton supporters, MSNBC or CNN and NPR and The New York Times, and their friends on Facebook.” [ii]


What I find most disturbing is that even though the internet has served to expose socially poorbehaviorsand promote greater accountability with instant relays, it has also fanned the flame of hate.


Eventually, you are forced to take sides. If you do not, you are perceived to be narrow-minded or compromising. In so doing, there are more conflicts and greater disunity.


  1. Rage is fueled by continual unrealized and unrealistic economic goals


In 2016, 62 of the richest billionaires controlled 50 percent of the world’s wealth and in 2017; income inequality is so lopsided that the world’s eight richest men have the wealth of 50 percent of the world’s poorest. Rising inequality and social polarization pose two of the biggest risks to the global economy in 2017.[iii]


A top corporate CEO earns as much in a year as 10,000 garment factory workers in Bangladesh. The world’s 10 biggest corporations together have revenue greater that the 180 poorest countries combined.


According to British-based Oxfam, an international poverty-fighting group, “From Nigeria to Bangladesh, from the U.K. to Brazil, people are fed up with feeling ignored by their political leaders, and millions are mobilizing to push for change. Seven out of 10 people live in a country that has seen a rise in inequality in the last 30 years.” [iv]


Why are people so angry? Can you think of any other reasons?

Share with me your thoughts and perspectives.

Read more on Unleashing The Greatness in You


[i]Timothy Garton Ash, ‘Answer to populist and fake news might lie in public service media.’ Speech given at the St Gallen Symposium on May 7, 2017.


[iii]Oxfam: 8 people have the same wealth at the poorest half of the world.

Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/01/15/global-inequality-oxfam-report/96545438/





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