Simply too much anger in the air

A MOTORCYCLIST hit the rear mirror of a car caught in a traffic jam. He almost fell. He steadied himself and kicked the car.

The car driver came out visibly angry. They argued and the car owner took out what seemed to be a car lock and went after the motorcyclist who sped away while shouting profanities. I was a few cars away and was expecting the worst.

I have seen how such incidents escalate to full-fledged fights or worse on the Internet. Some of the scenes became viral.

There are images of people fighting, getting bloodied, and some were seen chasing each other, all in full view of other motorists.

And it involved women as well as men, young and old.

Most of the time, other motorists are reluctant to interfere.

In a study conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Study in the United States in 2014, nearly 80% of drivers admitted they expressed anger in one way or another on the road.

The most common form of aggression is tailgating on purpose, yelling at other drivers and honking to show annoyance.

Imagine the number of drivers in the US, and you will get a picture of how “angry” people are on the road.

The scariest part is that eight million US drivers were engaged in “extreme examples of road rage” which includes purposely ramming another vehicle or confronting other drivers.

Malaysian drivers are not known to be a civil lot. The way we drive is legendary. We get agitated at the slightest excuse.

If a thorough study were done, I imagine the findings would certainly be much worse than the one in the US.

There are many reasons given.

The jams are simply unbearable today. People are spending, on average, two full hours every day commuting to and from work. A bad day at the office triggers anger that inconsiderate drivers provoke.

If you ask me, there is simply too much anger in the air. Not just on the road, but almost everywhere.

The cyberworld is one very angry domain.

Not too long ago Time magazine came out with a lead story on why we are losing the Internet to the culture of hate.

According to the magazine, some people are turning the Web into “a cesspool of aggression and violence”.

What was once hailed as the Holy Grail for lofty ideals, free flow of knowledge and clever discourse has now become the harbinger of hate.

It is now a realm so free that acts of disrespect for the authorities and individuals are celebrated.

Many are welcoming a new era where nothing matters anymore – even values and morals that humanity has developed over thousands of years.

For some people, the social media is a weapon of mass destruction.

Trolls are on the rise. There are simply too many angry people on the Net.

And they stop at nothing. No form of monitoring will deter them, not even the Malaysian Communi­cations and Multimedia Commis­sion.

It is scary to read how netizens react to the Facebook or Twitter accounts of some leaders.

One posting triggers so many responses, mostly vicious and ferocious personal attacks not related to the posting at all. But then, no one is spared. Not even the president of the most powerful nation on Earth.

I dread to find out what is posted on Donald Trump’s cyber accounts these days.

Are humans becoming angrier now than ever in history? If only there was a marker to monitor “the anger index” over the decades or centuries. Perhaps humans got angry for different reasons at different times.

Anger is a strange thing. The incident I witnessed involved a well-dressed motorist and a middle-aged motorcyclist.

Who are these people? The car driver might even be an exemplary office worker and the motorcyclist, perhaps, a good father. Yet, they turned into monsters on the road.

Some say it is all right to release tension sometimes. Occasional outbursts may help to alleviate stress.

But subjecting one’s body to emotional upheaval in the form of day-to-day hostility and rage is a different thing altogether.

Negative moods can be disruptive to the body system as a whole. So, calm down, take things easy!

But then, as Dr Buddy Rydell argued in the 2003 movie Anger Management, there are two kinds of angry people in the world: explosive and implosive.

The first type is the kind that will shout at the cashier for not taking his coupon. The second type is the cashier who remains quiet day after day but finally shoots everyone in the store.

Dr Rydell, a manic with an unorthodox technique played by Jack Nicholson, gave Dave Buznik (Adam Sandler) hell. You can’t afford to get angry when you have an interventionist therapist like Dr Rydell.

Perhaps we need his type to manage anger in today’s world.

Johan Jaaffar was a journalist, editor and for some years chairman of a media company, and is passionate about all things literature and the arts. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Opinion , Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar , columnist


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