The thing that outrages me is that there is so much that is so utterly outrageous, in this world, yet nobody seems to be outraged. OK, perhaps outrage is not a useful response to the outrageous, in that it might not be effective at causing the outrageous to be changed or curbed, but what’s the alternative? Passive, wilfully-ignorant acceptance? We seem to have developed a technique of tuning out anything that displeases us, putting our heads in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist and doesn’t matter. Maybe we’ve lost the ability to function, when outraged, in ways that cause things to improve.
In the past, artists were the ones that caused outrage and generally for a purpose (though sometimes not – sometimes being outrageous was the entire post-modern goal, in and of itself – maybe that’s when it all started to go wrong). Outrage was once a catalyst. It was the fuel for social change. It was the work of the artist to point out injustice, amplify it, show the details in sharp, clear relief, draw attention to it and thereby mobilise people to correct it. Artists dispensed the outrage in measured and carefully targeted doses, in an attempt to right the wrongs.
Perhaps the outrage always was impotent. The track record that artists have in causing positive social change through the invocation of outrage is patchy, at best. Those that perpetrate the outrages long ago learned techniques to passivate and defuse the anger. They found ways of subverting the outrage and turning it in on itself. Maybe outrage no longer serves a purpose or functions as intended. Today, the outraged artist is a figure of caricatured fun. We see them as mad and inconsequential. We are able to dismiss those things that trouble them as random. How brainwashed we might all be.
All the same, I don’t think acceptance and ignorance are the right responses to the outrageous. If we feel and care even a small amount, shouldn’t we be doing something about it? Why do we have the reverse snobbery of pretending everything is fine, then going back to issuing banal trivialities on social media, when things are plainly outrageous and worthy of outrage? Isn’t that a twisted response? It’s maladaptive. It consigns you to victimhood, but through the vehicle of your own chauvinistic, stubborn, wilful, pig-headed denial. The same outrageous things keep happening, but in some sort of reverse psychology, those that want to stop them are seen as the unbalanced and those that keep on with their quips, posting pictures of their breakfast and their pre-occupation with the inflated value of their homes, as if the outrage doesn’t matter, are seen as normal and laudable. How can it be that people that are this patently maladjusted are actually held to be well-adjusted? It seems utterly Orwellian.
Should we take control and take the initiative, or should we continue to be complicit in hiding outrageous crimes on behalf of the criminals? More correctly, should we prevent further outrages, or simply allow them to conducted in plain sight, in front of all of us, but with our tacit support, through our seeming acceptance of their existence, without perturbation or interruption to our endless streams of narcissistic distractions? The ultimate cost of doing nothing is incalculable.
Of course, you have the perfect right to remain stupid and stupefied. Anything you don’t know or refuse to look into can and will be used against you, probably for profit – maybe even fatally. It would be lamentable if people found relentless outrage annoying. I agree that it is hard to sustain outrage and you very quickly saturate and tire of it, but I find a person’s ignorance of and failure to look critically into outrageous matters to be appalling and their consequential default support for this kind of tyranny, offensive.
I despair of the lack of outrage. The crumbling of resistance to outrages simply emboldens the outrage perpetrators and we descend down a dark, deep, endless spiral. I think it’s time to get good and mad. It’s time to feel the outrage and cause the changes we seek. Artists need to lead this movement from the front. I’m outraged that we’re not.