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The politics of anger Print E-mail
By Harvey Mansfield   
Friday, 29 November 2013

Politics is about what makes you angry, not so much about what you want. Your wants do matter, but mainly because you feel you are entitled to have them satisfied and get angry when they are not. Many times people who seem to us poor do not complain of their wants, because they do not feel entitled to those wants. When you complain, it is not so much that you lack what you want as that you feel slighted or offended in not having what is rightfully yours. In our democracy politics is motivated especially by the sense that you are not being treated equally. The civil rights movement, the women’s movement are obvious recent examples. They were initiated not for the sake of gaining benefits but to receive equal honor and respect. We do not worry so much about the wants of the rich and their desire for inequality. In a democracy that desire is latent and suppressed, though in our kind of democracy, a liberal democracy, we make room for the rich and allow inequality in practice if not in principle. But the rich are not allowed to get angry unless their democratic rights are violated.

You can tell who is in charge of a society by noticing who is allowed to get angry and for what cause, rather than by trying to gauge how much each group gets. Blacks and women wanted benefits only as a sign of equality, not to give themselves greater purchasing power. Power is too vague a term when separated from honor; when we say that people are “empowered,” that means they have the power that goes with honor. Those not empowered are dissed, a word invented by blacks to designate the feeling of being disrespected.

 
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