The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Hate, Anger, Contempt And Our Leadership

Yesterday I wrote a very angry article about the genocide Israel is committing in Gaza, with the full aid and complicity of most Western nations, including the US and my own country, Canada.

As I noted in comments, it’s the angriest I’ve been since 2015 when Syriza crumbled to European austerity. The day that happened I was furious. I wrote an angry post and went for a walk, still boiling with anger. About half an hour later I thought “this is ridiculous, it isn’t helping the Greeks and I don’t like it” and the anger went away.

It was odd, in the sense that we often have thoughts and feelings we don’t like, but usually they don’t go away just because think “I’d rather not feel this way.”

But a fair bit of it stuck, and over the past eight years my anger has reduced radically, and on those occasions when I do get angry, I can end it quickly if I want to. I was angry when I wrote that post, but I didn’t go to bed angry.

From about the run-up to the Iraq war till 2014 I was angry most of the time. Lots of dead people, tortured people, raped people, hungry people, homeless people that didn’t need to be any of those things.

Our leaders and too many of us (remember approval for the Iraq war polled over 70%) were creating Hell when we could just as easily create Heaven.

In many ways the current Gaza war reminds me of the run-up to and early Iraq war. The same feeling of frustrated helplessness while vast evil was planned and performed. Iraq didn’t radicalize me, Obama confirming he was neoliberal scum and condemning a billion+ people to die by slamming the pedal down on climate change did, but Iraq turned me into an activist, a role I occupied from 2002 to 2009, and emotionally inhabited till 2014.

Anyway, what I learned in 2014, and what I grounded into my consciousness in 2015 was that being angry all the time was destroying me. My health, my effectiveness and my enjoyment of life. My anger wasn’t hurting the people doing all the evil, they could care less, and why should they care, they were well off or rich, powerful and living very pleasant lives while I was poor, sick and angry?

The only person my anger was hurting was me.

Don’t get me wrong, if my anger had let me, in some sense, win, I’d have taken the hit. I was committed, oh was I committed. But it didn’t work.

Andrew Cockburn once asked someone working for him if their hate was pure and I get it. Still is. I won’t pretend or cavil, or pretend to be a Saint. I hate Obama. I hate Biden. I hate Trump. I hate Clinton and Bush. Netanyahu. Didn’t use to hate Trudeau but genocide support has pushed me over.

My hate is pure, but these days not intense. Just a sort of background contempt (the most dangerous emotion, by far, contempt.)

At the same time I feel this odd empathy and sympathy for them. I get it, I feel it, the self-righteousness (especially evident in Obama and Trudeau), the love of power and adulation, the sense that they are the ones who know and make the hard decisions and so on.

Ben Gurion knew he was evil, and I respect him for that, but most of our leaders think they are good.

(And no, don’t succumb to the bullshit of “well if I think they’re evil, and they think they’re good, who knows who’s right. That’s garbage. Have you aided a genocide recently? Invaded a country based on lies? Denied the children of Iraq cancer medicines? Bombed a hospital or pharmaceutical plant? Made millions homeless then effectively made being homeless illegal?” )

Life is good for the people in charge: the senior pols, the CEOS, the high level executives, the tools who run NGOs (whose workers lives are mostly shit).

Anyway, I write this because I bet a lot of my readers feel the same way, and recognize a lot of what I’m saying.

Rule : don’t let the monsters ruin your life. Don’t let them control your emotions. Surges of anger are fine, but don’t live there. Seek out joy and happiness and as much as possible fight from there.

But remember also that emotions like hate, anger and contempt, in controlled doses exist to let you know who is an enemy, who shouldn’t have power, and who is dangerous to you. Such emotions are dangerous, absolutely, because they can be weaponized by others to turn you against people who don’t deserve them. See Jews, WWII and Palestinians, today. See Americans who think Putin is a bigger threat to them than Biden or Trump or the CEO of any Fortune 500 company.

What’s happening in Gaza is an atrocity. By all means do something, but don’t let it make your miserable, because if you do, the bastards have a victory, the suffering of their enemy, you.

But remember, oh yes, always remember. And remembering, act if you ever have the chance.

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Enough! (Palestine)


Reasons For Hope In The Age of Collapse


  1. Mary Bennet

    So, Mr. Welsh, maybe we in the USA and Canada should be asking ourselves how people like the ones you named above get into power in the first place. Just how did that happen? I wonder if all of us need to be taking a close and hard look at how we, each one of us, go about bestowing our good opinion.

  2. StewartM

    (And no, don’t succumb to the bullshit of “well if I think they’re evil, and they think they’re good, who knows who’s right. That’s garbage. Have you aided a genocide recently? Invaded a country based on lies? Denied the children of Iraq cancer medicines? Bombed a hospital or pharmaceutical plant? Made millions homeless then effectively made being homeless illegal?” )

    This is what I meant when we use the material, tangible, demonstrable consequences of actions, of their benefit or harm, to determine ‘good or evil’. Not feel-good emotions, not appeals to some supernatural entity or metaphysical construction, but the materially demonstrable good or harm that is done. Bibi’s heart may warm to what he’s doing of reclaiming some idealized Greater Israel (Hey Bibi! Just like Hitler’s warmed to the idea of Greater Germany!!) but that matters not one whit.

    The problem with ‘feel-good’ emotions is that people can be brought up to feel good or at least accept the most horrible of things. The sad thing is I’ve become convinced that most people base their morals on some type of what I call ‘fact-free morality’.

    Marvin Harris wrote about the traditional purpose of art in societies, and it’s often used to pull heartstrings and appeal to ingrained biases to support the society’s status quo. That’s why I have a hard time watching many movies now, I sit there and think “what agenda am I being sold?” with the same suspicion I have when watching a commercial.

  3. Feral Finster

    Hate and anger can be very useful emotions, as long as you can turn them into concrete action, and keep your head while doing so.

  4. elissa3

    Thank you for this Ian. Like yourself, I have largely controlled my fierce anger and I wholly identify with your hatred of “them”. When asked which USA politicians I like, I simply reply “I hate them all”. Some a bit more than others, some for varied reasons, but, ALL. All of them support the war machine. ALL.

    A personal problem that I now have is that in place of anger, I have a feeling of overwhelming disgust for the human race. I know that I should confine this disgust only to the 4-5% sociopaths among us, many of whom rise to positions of power in governments. But it is difficult. In any other cooperative species, these creatures would be cast out from the population to fend for themselves. Humans are different. And I wonder if this isn’t the fatal flaw in our species.

  5. Forecasting Intelligence


    Learn from John Greer. Move on and accept the inherent logic of the Long Descent.

    Shit happens and billions will die this century.

    Gaza is a like a dot in a vast landscape of suffering that is due humanity.

  6. capelin

    “Let the clear fire of anger burn away the clouds of confusion” – new age saying.

    “Sentiment without action is the ruination of the soul” – Edward Abbey, or was it Abbey Hoffman.

    Nice column Ian.

  7. Jan Wiklund

    To tell people not to bother about disastrous policies is like asking someone not to bother about his cancer. It can only be done by a Liberal that imagine people as individuals that can opt for exit when they like.

    The core misconception is to portray this or that politician as “Evil”. That’s a reflection of the American puritanism and evangelical renaissance in the 1820s. They aren’t. They are just humans, and caught in a trap (“competition”), where you either eat or is eaten, either is the culprit or the victim.

    The inheritance of the evangelical tradition is that politics is about “bearing witness about sin”. It isn’t. It is about organizing self-interest. Ordinary people are atomized, and therefore powerless. Only organized collectives with a certain function in society can exert power to protect themselves – and in happy circumstances also let the politicians out of their trap.

    The recent victories of an organized labour movement in the US may be the beginning of something new. But one must go much further than that.

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