The Tigers of Wrath
Presented February 2nd, 2020 Rev. Fiona Heath
(Ring bell loudly)
That got your attention! Today I want to talk about anger as a tool of resistance.
Anger is like a bell ringing in your soul. It’s loud and interrupts whatever else is going on. Anger is a sign that something is wrong. Anger is a warning bell.
There is hurt, harm, damage – sometimes to you, sometimes to something or someone you love. Used well, anger can be a tool of resistance, a refusal to accept the unacceptable.
It clears the air, resets the moment.
But anger is tricky. Anger doesn’t always surface at the appropriate moment. The situation that creates the anger response in the first place, may not be the actual cause of the alarm.
So we have to pay attention. To stop and notice what the anger is really about. Especially because we live in a society where anger is not an acceptable emotion. You can be excited and happy and sad for the most part, but you can’t be angry.
Especially if you are a woman. Especially if you a person of colour.
This is deeply ingrained, anger is seen as a loss of control and even if the anger is justified, the angry person somehow loses the right to be angry just by expressing it. We would listen to them, if only they weren’t so angry.
But anger matters; it is telling you something is wrong. Anger is a defense, a covering up of hurt underneath, the way a cat might hiss when cornered.
Anger reminds us that we matter, that which we love matters, and that our values matter. That we care and that makes us vulnerable.
And we can use our anger wisely, to fuel our fight to protect what matters to us. To resist that which hurts us.
Greta Thunberg has not become the leader of the youth climate action movement because she smiles and asks political leaders nicely to change. Greta is angry, she is frustrated and furious and passionate. And she says so clearly and loudly every chance she gets.
Follow the science, she says. We have the tools for a climate response, what we don’t have is the political will. Greta is a ringing bell, calling to all of us. Greta’s anger and despair and frustration led her to her climate crisis school strike. She channelled her anger into action.
Her father notes that Greta struggled with despair before taking action but the power of engagement, of having her voice heard, of having an impact, has lifted her spirits.
To resist, to act, is empowering. Taking action reminds us that we have the power to influence change.
Greta used her anger well. She has shifted the global conversation on climate action. And not just Greta, but young people from around the planet, each voice adding weight.
Anger has power we can use to fuel action. And while here in this room there are people of all walks of life, from across the political spectrum, I suspect we can each find something going on in the world that makes us angry.
It may be the climate crisis, or species extinction, or the exclusion of trans people, or poverty, or sexual abuse. There is something that injures our soul, setting our warning bells ringing.
Pay attention – it’s not always a loud clanging, it might be an irritating beep, or soft occasional boom.
Listen to the warning bell and find its meaning for you.
Anger isn’t sustainable on its own, but it can be a starting point for action. To move from hurt and despair into help.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a psychologist, reminds us of our power. She says, “We are needed, that is all we can know…
“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small… thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.
“It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing.
“We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.”
We are needed, that is all we can know.
Use your anger wisely, understand it. Use it to resist what damages your soul. Use your anger as fuel to act for change, to reach out to others, to take whatever small action you can take.
All Greta did was get mad and sit with a sign. But she isn’t the only one. And more join her each day.
We are needed.
Musical Gift I Won’t Back Down written by Tom Petty
While some acts of resistance – like school strikes for the climate crisis – take on global issues – small local acts also matter.
A few years ago in Manchester, England, a property developer decided to put strips of little metal spikes all along a swath of pavement outside one of its downtown buildings. This was a warmer, sheltered area and had become a place for homeless people to sleep at night.
Manchester City Council condemned the act, saying that the spikes demeaned those in need, rough sleepers as they are called in England, who have been impacted by loss in social services there. They asked that businesses work with city council to find ways to help people rather then dehumanize them.
But one person decided there was no reason to wait for City Council to intervene. Jenny Platt felt the spikes were so mean and cruel, she simply went and covered them with a pile of cushions and pillows. She and her family and friends bought dozens of sandwiches and invited people who slept there to return.
This garnered media attention. There was a public outcry. The company removed the spikes.
One woman firmly resisted a corporate choice she deemed cruel. It was a small straightforward act of resistance, cover the spikes with colourful cushions, but it mattered.
Jenny’s act of kindness told people who were struggling that they mattered. She offered compassion.
Now it didn’t resolve the rise in rough sleepers, but she helped begin a bigger public conversation about the issue. Change happens through the accumulation of many small acts.
We live in a system that feels like it s becoming too big to control even for those that govern and those with most of the money. With the weight of complex policies and laws, the enormous concrete infrastructure that surrounds us, and financial costs that spiral higher with every passing moment, effecting serious change is difficult even for those with power.
How do you shift a mammoth determined on its course? There is no single solution. Use poles to prod and push, reshape the path with rocks, stand in the way and slow the beast down. It takes multiple strategies and multiple people to shift a mammoth towards a new direction.
As Unitarian Universalists, even those of us who think we aren’t activists, or feel firmly part of the status quo, every one of us acts to improve the world.
Being a Unitarian Universalist is itself an act of resistance. To choose religion in a time when religion is an unpopular scapegoat is a brave choice.
We come here to engage in what it means to be fully human, to explore what it means to be entangled in the web of life. To struggle with the deeper questions of meaning in these shifting times is vital and necessary.
I believe that most of us, most people, want the world to be a good place to live, to minimize pain and suffering, and to live well and in peace.
If we take this desire seriously, then each of us, in our own way, becomes an activist for good.
As people of the chalice, we act every day in so many ways to make life better for others. We fail as often as we succeed, we make mistakes and cause harm, but we try to shift society towards caring inclusion, towards healing the planet. I don’t think we ever realize how much we do.
To act is to be an activist. I encourage all of you to claim this label and let it empower you. Right now we are going to see some of what we are doing in the world.
I’d like everyone who has ever given money to a charitable cause dear to their heart to stand.
Anyone who has given money, donated furniture or helped refugees find a new life in Canada.
Anyone who has ever attended a protest march or protest sit in.
I’d like everyone who has ever signed a petition to stand.
Anyone who works for a non-profit or charity or business which helps people or the planet.
Anyone who has ever written a letter to a politician or met with a politican or spoke in front of a federal or provincial hearing or municipal or regional council.
Anyone who has rescued an animal or adopted or fostered animals.
Anyone who has stood up against unethical or unfair business practices or been part of a union.
I’d like everyone who has ever participated in a charitable event, a fundraiser or a marathon, to stand.
Anyone who works to heal people, whether physically, mentally or emotionally.
Anyone who has ever taken the lead and organized a petition, a delegation to council, or a protest march.
Anyone who has been a founding member of a social or environmental organization or social enterprise.
Anyone who helped a family member, a friend, a neighbour, or a stranger in need – with money, with goods, with a listening ear.
We can be proud of all we do.
All of us act for a better world in ways large and small. We are activists, resisting in a myriad of ways, working towards a more just society.
We stand our ground. Let us not back down.
May we resist all that damages our soul, remembering that we are needed, and empower ourselves through action.
So Say We All