When being press-ganged into writing a “My Angle,” I asked Octagon adviser Patricia Fels, “What am I upset about?” to start the process.
Her response: “You’re upset about everything.” She’s not wrong.
I have a well-developed sense of righteous anger, as many of my classmates may have noticed in my English class last year.
The problem is, there are a lot of things to be angry about. Take, for example, the influx of Syrian refugees to countries that are not at all willing to take them in. Yes, I understand that refugees are not necessarily helpful to the economies and social climates of the places they try to go, but what about human rights? Human rights aren’t optional.
It makes my blood boil that any country could let a boatful of traumatized refugees drown.
But if that doesn’t make your blood boil too, I don’t trust you. As I said, human rights are not optional.
Some of the things I get angry about seem hardly worth considering, though. For instance, there are the minor grammar errors that I see everywhere I go. I’m not sure anyone other than Fels understands the sheer frustration of spotting a misused comma or an unnecessary apostrophe. In many cases, the rules are pretty clear. So why do people still make mistakes?
I am so upset when people make mistakes in things that seem utterly obvious to me!
But that’s where I have to stop myself. I certainly wouldn’t appreciate it if my peers were silently judging me for being bad at history, or were vocally frustrated whenever I forgot the year of an historical event.
In other words, I need to cut people some slack.
I have so much empathy for migrants and other groups on the fringes of society, so why can’t I extend the same empathy to the struggle of my peers to learn a complex, codified set of somewhat arbitrary rules?
It’s a strange conundrum. Usually humans have an easier time empathizing with a friend, or at least an individual, than with the huddled masses. For me, that seems reversed. I care so much about assorted groups of strangers, and so little for the people I know.
Then again, maybe it’s just a case of prioritizing those that need more help. While there is no strict hierarchy of suffering, and all struggles are valid, no one would say that Syrian migrants are having a great time.
But that doesn’t address my righteous anger.
For me, a huge part of gaining maturity was learning to control my temper in cases when it isn’t worth getting heated. I’ve learned to pick my fights more carefully. And I’ve stopped engaging fellow senior Max Schmitz in discussions of political theory.
I’m still angry about so many things, though. And honestly, I think that’s a good thing.
After all, who would I be if I didn’t care about the important issues? Certainly, not myself.
In terms of grammar policing, though, maybe I just need to lighten up.
—By Amelia Fineberg