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Midday Matinee – Flying Off the Handle

May 2, 2012

Midday Matinee

Midday Matinee – Flying Off the Handle

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

I am sick of outrage. I think too many of us, led by the sensationalism that cable TV news channels often use to try and shock viewers into watching are “flying off the handle.”

Not surprisingly to fly off the handle is an American expression.

It goes back to our pioneer days when axes were most often handmade, frontiersman whittling their own handles and attaching ax-heads that had been shipped from the industrialized East coast. Because they were often crudely fitted together, ax-heads were known to fly off the handle while being used, often resulting in injuries to the user or those near-by. The suddenness of an ax-head being flung off – and the resulting trouble it caused – naturally suggests a sudden, wild outburst of anger, the loss of self-control, or losing one’s cool, all with a possible threat of harm

Outrage has become so prevalent that real outrage, justifiable anger at injustice is hard to distinguish from the outbursts that just buy the speakers a headline for a day. If everyone is angry our conversations become more like armed encounters than anything else. My mental image for what I too often hear on the news is that words fly through the air like detached ax heads without a thought for who or what they may strike once they are launched.

This is not the way to solve the complex problems that face us. Righteous anger can be a powerful motivator. Free ranging anger isn’t a motivator; it is heartburn and high blood pressure and maybe an ulcer. Really, does anyone think that a bunch of red-in-the-face, screaming-at-the-top-of-their-lungs, mad-as-hell people are going to actually fix anything?

To play with the phrase a bit, I think the answer is to get a handle on things. Take a deep breath and just get a grip. Please and Thank You.

Reader Comments Welcome.

  • winterbanyan

    Excellent piece and great advice, which I need. I wish everyone would read this and get the point. Outrage pandering does nothing but make us all sick. It certainly doesn’t fix anything.

    When I find myself ratcheting up, I try to turn away. If I can’t channel that anger into something useful, it’s pointless. I’ll be the first to admit I often fail.

    Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

    • addisnana

      I needed the reminder myself. After getting the wrong part for my shower after driving to Duluth and back (250 miles) I almost let fly. I called ahead even to check with the experts. No so expert after all. My land line isn’t working because a tree branch fell on it. At least I have charged my new cell phone so if I wanted to let fly I could. This is all the first week. It has to get better, right?

      • NCrissieB

        Oh dear. After a 250-mile round-trip drive, you had the wrong part?!? I’d be ready to let fly too! 😯

      • winterbanyan

        OMG. I wouldn’t blame you for letting fly. It’s not as if you just had to run around the corner.

        Mega hugggs for you. I hope this is the end of it. If you need a new head for your axe, just let me know.

  • NCrissieB

    The “two minutes hate” model of political dialogue is very popular. That phrase was first used to describe the anti-British propaganda broadcast each morning in Germany during World War I. The phrase became more widely known after George Orwell used it in his novel 1984, although it’s still not nearly as widely-recognized as “Big Brother is watching you.”

    Ironically, if I could choose which of those two phrases to be more commonly used and thus more widely cautioned against … I would choose “two minutes hate.” The near constant “free range anger” (great phrase!) has done more to harm our body politic. Surveillance has become so ubiquitous that it no longer has the chilling effect many feared. In contrast, the “two minutes hate” keeps many so heated that they can no longer hear anything but louder outrage.

    • addisnana

      I will adopt “two minutes hate.” What a great phrase!

      Once I told myself that this whole business with the shower could be solved by driving my camper into a dealer and selling the whole thing, I felt (mind game that works for me) like at least I had a plan B. I no longer needed to let fly. My two minutes of hate wouldn’t have accomplished squat.