Oliver Burkeman - Why Are We So Angry?


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Despite how it can be misdirected anger has long been known as the 'moral emotion' the one most likely to urge us into action in redressing some injustice or offence. But is this belief justified, or self-deluded excuse to indulge in a little payback?

Oliver explores why anger is sometimes necessary for the betterment of society, how anger can be channelled for good or evil, and he meets with meets with Martin Boyce, a veteran of the Stonewall Riots, to learn how an eruption of repressed rage can be transformed from destruction into pride.

Anger can be seen as just, Oliver explores how it may be essential for social change.

Why is everyone so angry nowadays, and what is it doing to the world?

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Anger does have benefits, but when it gets out of control it can be destructive both on an individual level and to society as a whole. There’s plenty of advice, indeed there is an entire industry build around ‘anger management’, but in an age with more provocations than ever before, what can people actually do to foster a healthy level of anger in their life?

Oliver explores why anger is such a difficult emotion for people to control, or even really recognise for what it is, tests some of the techniques said to calm problematic anger, and finds out why simply dismissing or extinguishing all anger can do more harm than good.

Anger can be a destructive force, so Oliver Burkeman learns how it can be managed.

Why is everyone so angry nowadays, and what is it doing to the world?

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Politics has always been angry, it touches every part of our day to day lives and political beliefs are not simply ideas to us, but part of our identities. Anger builds around big events such as elections, protests or referendums, but usually calms and dissapates in the aftermath. But today, we do not seem to reach the calm. Even those who come out on top, are now sore winners.

Oliver looks at the angry political environment we in the western world are living in today, exploring how emotion shapes the political world more than policy, if we are in part of a historical cycle of discontent, and if we are going to continue to have to accept that the future will be continually more angry, or if there’s a point where our anger will finally break.

In a political state where even the winners stay angry, what will our future be?

Why is everyone so angry nowadays, and what is it doing to the world?

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In the developed world we live in a blessed epoch where life has never been better. Infant mortality has been all but abolished, education is open to all, we have access to technology that would have been seen as the stuff of science fiction little more than a decade ago. We are safer and wealthier than at any time in human history. So why are we so damn angry about everything?

To understand anger we need to start with what it does to us physiologically, specifically how anger makes us act and think - or more accurately not think.

Oliver discovers why anger gave humans an evolutionary edge, developing beyond a basic animalist aggression to become what evolutionary psychologist Aaron Sell calls ‘a mind control device’ that gets us better treatment. He explores how nature, as well as the development of our cultural and philosophical attitudes of anger has lead us to the kind of anger we all feel today - and asks if we can take control of it?

What in our biological and social evolution made us so angry? Oliver Burkeman finds out.

Why is everyone so angry nowadays, and what is it doing to the world?

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It’s possible that we are more angry now than ever, but it’s also possible that we just perceive higher levels of rage because we are all plugged into an environment that can turn a profit on our outrage. In the digital age media outlets have to keep our attention to make money, and the best way to do that? Get us angry.

But how is this constant rage stream affecting us? Oliver explores how the infrastructure of the digital age has been built to keep anger on a rolling boil, why our brains can’t help but be drawn to the things that outrage us most, and if it’s possible to redesign our the lucrative attention economy to tone down the anger, or if we’ve reached the point of no return where the rage we vent behind the screen is now spilling over into how we see one another in the real world.

Outrage sells. Oliver Burkeman finds how companies can profit from our anger.

Why is everyone so angry nowadays, and what is it doing to the world?