Monday, May 7, 2012


(Also posted at Vote Obama 2012.  Please join me there.)

I’ve been thinking about the difference between passion and rage.  Both, it would seem to me, have their origin in the fire at the pit of the belly.  But one is bent primarily on destruction, the other on creation.  One consumes, the other constructs.  Passion, I think, is entirely consonant with its opposite, dispassion.  Rage is at odds with everything, especially its opposite: calm.  Passion inspires.  Rage eats at the gut and leaves its host hollowed out and exhausted.

I heard former Senator Bill Bradley say this morning (on the CBS Morning Show) that government action is determined by money.  (My paraphrase, I hope it's accurate.)  I presume that those who possess the money use it dispassionately, and usually with the purpose of making more—though I’m not taking philanthropy into account here.  A successful democracy would depend, too, upon the dispassionate exercise of reason, even though opinions may be passionately held.  What’s happening at the moment in America is that the interests of wealth are being furthered by the dispassionate, rational manipulation righteous of rage—rage on the left as well as on the right. 

Those who rage on the right are being persuaded by the astute use of vast sums of money to agitate and vote against their own interests, so that others may profit from their passion.  The rage of those on the left is more subtly manipulated: the strategy is to subvert their goals with the passion of their own ideals.  The attachment to their ideals is so passionate that they are readily seduced into believing that they are betrayed by any deviation from idealistic principles or goals. 

My own belief is that it is possible to be both passionate and dispassionate at one and the same time.  This is what I mean when I say that passion is entirely consonant with its opposite.  I myself share the ideals of those on the left, and passionately so.  But I recognize the need to acknowledge that the outcomes I wish for are not all practically attainable—at least not with the speed and ease that I would wish in the face of bitter, intractable opposition. 

So, for my fellow lefties, I wish the quality of dispassion.  They will personally suffer less, and they will contribute more to their cause by tempering their passion with patience and the exercise of reason than by exercising it in the form of rage.  I refuse to have my passion used to destroy what I believe in.  I refuse to succumb to the subliminal sales pitch with which corporate power and money seeks to suborn me.

These people are clever.  They can easily persuade those in their sway that strength is weakness, that success is failure, that courage is cowardice, that ignorance is more estimable than knowledge, that science is myth, that vengeance is justice, or that war is the path to peace.  Money, they know, can buy belief and loyalty.  It can buy certitude as well as servitude.  Caveat emptor.  We on the left must acknowledge the success of these strategies when we allow ourselves to be governed solely by our rage.  Our passion, we need.  Our rage is purchased and put to use by our opponents.  It serves their purposes, not ours.


Paul said...

Terrific essay, Peter. You've summed up the difference between passion and rage very well... and the differences that drive right and left.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, Paul. There has been an unprecedented spike in readership today. I'm not sure what to attribute it to, but I'm glad that people found me on one of my good days!

CHI SPHERE said...