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.


  1. Sadly, it is too clear that the screaming would have come out of the gun’s mouth, and the old man would be another statistic pointing to a need for better gun control.

    1. Yes, it’s true. One dead old man, and probably several others dead, too, who just happened to be in the line of fire. It’s getting dangerous to be out with people in public spaces!

    1. Oh, boy, oh, yeah! I’m glad the kid had enough mind to just yell and then leave. If he’d stayed around — or if the old man had stood his ground to put down the false accusation — it would have had a much worse ending.

  2. As sad as it is to say it, we used to institutionalize people like that so they could not do harm to themselves or others.

    1. That’s right. We’re out of money to help them get mental help and we can no longer afford to warehouse them in jails and prisons. They’re out on the street. Many have access to deadly weapons.

  3. That is really quite scary ………………… we all know it is happening but most of us prefer not to think about the consequences of leaving these people without treatment and or support. I feel sometimes that there are just too many people in too small a space and too much noise. .

    1. This behavior used to be more common in big, tight, cities than in the spread out nature of the Midwest but, unfortunately, that is changing as well.

      Medication is a miracle that can help a lot of these people cope with the world and their anger. If you can funnel money to them to get them affordable meds — you still have to deal with the often daily duty of getting them to actually take their meds and that is no simple task. There simply aren’t enough institutional controls to force the issue — down their throats!

      I wrote an article in a similar vein wondering about mandating the administration of Propranolol to inmates to help reduce Racism:


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