I spend a lot of my waking hours — when I am not here staring at a computer screen writing to you — walking the urban streets of New York and New Jersey. I interact with all sorts of personalities and lifestyles. I am seeing a new trend that concerns me as a pseudo-amateur watcher of human behavior: The free exposition of lying in wait repressed rage.
There was a time, in the brief history of human existence, when, if you were depressed, or sad, or lonesome, you basically kept it all inside and to yourself and then quietly died and nobody found your body for three years. It was a simple and clean end to a private suffering. Nobody was really interested in your problems — especially strangers — because everyone had their own problems to deal with in everyday life. That necessary melancholia was a great salve to the human spirit, but not when it led to self-destruction like cutting or alcoholism or other internal catastrophes.
Then there was a sea change in psychology when the idea became to “get out” whatever was bothering you. That led to lots of self-confession and public caterwauling that made many outsiders hide from the free expression. There were others still, who enjoyed reading, and experiencing, the social angst of others.
Now we live in a world where everything goes — Twitter, Facebook, Blogging — where nothing is held back and all is exposed for public analysis. The public expression and consumption of the frailty of the human condition is fine — as long as it is offered and accepted in the right spirit of the social contract for interactive covenants.
The latest trend I’m seeing now are people who are clearly angry and enraged and boiling — and who then camp out — just sitting and, basically, lying in wait, until an unsuspecting innocent passes by and they explode in a tirade of unmitigated, and unearned, rage. It’s as if a steam spigot has been turned and the release of heat and bile is so overwhelming that it burns everyone in the immediate area like a human time bomb.
Yesterday, I saw this behavior in context when a young guy was sitting at McDonald’s. He was fidgeting and red-faced and looking for a fight. When an old and fragile man entered the restaurant, the teenager accused the old man of stepping on his foot with his cane. The screaming was incredibly vicious and the old man really had no idea what hit him. Then, flailing his fists and arms, the teenager slammed open the door and left the restaurant, and the old man, shaking.
That’s just one example of this new rage theory — and it is disturbing, because you cannot help but wonder what these angry people would do if they had a gun in their hand instead of a scream in their throats.