What outraged you this year?

2014-12-23 07:00

Slate magazine has called 2014 the year of outrage and has compiled a list of events we have been outraged by for every day of the year.

It has also offered visitors to its site the option to vote on whether a particular outrageous event had appropriate or “overblown” rage.

I find this measuring of outrageso interesting because one cannot win. Outrage is either too little, too late or too much – and it comes with endless smugness from all sides.

Slate argues that “when something outrageous happens ... it’s easy to anticipate the cycle that follows: anger, sarcasm, recrimination, piling on; defences and counterattacks; anger at the anger, disdain for the outraged; sometimes an apology … and on to the next”.

Despite this, I am delighted that the CIA torture report was outrageous, the continued bombing of Palestine was outrageous and the Pakistan school massacre was outrageous.

I’ll take that with some of the “frivolity” that appears on social media. It’s all too easy for the almost endless daily violence and vast inequality to become normal or acceptable.

The disdain for outrage, which argues that outrage doesn’t “fix” anything, is lazy. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was never going to bring back those girls. A hashtag is not an army or an intervention. It is not a government.

It is not civil action. It is not a solution. But it can be a rallying call with the victims of police brutality, such as #EricGarner, #TrayvonMartin, #MikeBrown, triggering large-scale protests across the US, and the world repeating the statement that black lives also matter.

Even this protest action is not the end. There is more work to be done at a governance and structural level, and more work thereafter. At some point, Kim Kardashian’s naked butt will cease to be outrageous when women’s bodies are no longer policed.

You need the hashtags and stories to rally, teach, provide alternative narratives and, most importantly, start a conversation about what actually needs to happen.

The function of outrage is just that: rage. And it is good and apt.

I am grateful there are things that still shock us. I hope we remain enraged. But with the rage is the grimy, thankless, endless work of making things better or changing things completely bymarching, changing laws and changing people’s behaviour.

The 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We have a lot to do.

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