Transition-Anger: Expressing Protest and Facing Forward

On Saturday, philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum turned 70. I mention this as I find it helpful to orient my attention toward humans who are alive and well and contributing to collective intellectual progress. A week ago Nussbaum delivered the Jefferson Lecture, the highest honor the US government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. A transcript of her remarks on political emotions and liberal democracy is available here.

In my favorite excerpt, Nussbaum offers the example of a parent outraged at a child’s behavior. The parent wants to protest the wrong and to hold the child accountable, and yet the parent does not desire retributive payback. Rather, the parent wishes to guide future improvement in the child. And so, the parent, sufficiently firm to get the child’s attention, demonstrates how to behave differently. The parent’s outrage is an outrage with love and respect at its core.

The Earth Charter begins with an affirmation of caring for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love. May our outrage continue to mirror that of a loving parent, an outrage that is solution-oriented and future-focused rather than devoted to the past, an outrage that is grounded in love for those beyond our narrow circle, for our fellow messy humans.

-by Ali O'Malley