Politics of cynicism in the age of anger

By Simbo Olorunfemi

Ordinarily, it ought to be the season of love, as we hold on to the tailcoat of St. Valentine. But where is the place of love in an Age of Anger? Where is the place of reason? Where is the place of civility? It is the age of Anger. There is no place for healthy discourse. It is the Age of Rage. There is not much room for enlightened and enlightening engagement. Rather, it is more of cynicism, abuse and vitriolic exchange of darts. It is the age of Anger.
There is plenty of anger in the air. Sometimes, over nothing! It does not have to make sense. In fact, it must not. Otherwise, it will not be in tandem with the Zeitgeist motivating the rage of this age. It is the Age of Anger. The wind is universal. It is blowing, at once, in multiple directions. It is lifting the skirt up on what was once assumed buried. It is raising questions on what was thought to have been settled. It might not provide answers, but it will raise questions. It might provide the wrong solutions and even activate new problems, yet the rage keeps gathering momentum.
The rage is universal.  Some have found expression for theirs in BREXIT. They might be developing cold feet thereafter, but that is in keeping with the tenets of the Age. It might, in part, have propelled the rise of different faces of terrorism from the Middle East. It was, in part, the unseen hand behind the different variants of the ‘Arab Spring’. Perhaps, that might be responsible for its hijack and mismanagement in some of the countries. For anger, not properly channeled or managed, guarantees no fruitful ending.
The rage is universal. It is finding expression in the push towards the right in Europe. It is querying what otherwise had appeared to have been accepted, redefining good and rebranding evil in more benevolent toga, for acceptance. It is the Age of Anger. It found full expression in the American elections. The country is struggling to make sense of where it has found itself. It must negotiate the delicate line between the phantom and reality. It must now seek how to navigate behind the wall of exceptionalism in an age where walls of divide have been breached by the ocean of globalization. As it is with almost every product of anger, dealing with the after-taste is often more difficult than the initial anger itself.
Like a wind, anger is blowing across continents. It is an age in which news travels faster than light. An age in which ‘news’ has lost its meaning, where all manner of fabrication now walk tall around, displacing the truth. In this age, it is becoming difficult, to tell the truth apart from falsehood. ‘Fake’ news is deliberately planted and given wings to fly to shape the minds of the people, whichever direction so desired. Truth has become relative, what you believe or accept becomes the fact and what you do not believe or accept becomes the ‘fake.’ It is the age of ‘Alternative Facts.’ It is the Age of Rage, the Age of Anger. Nothing is sacrosanct, any longer.
There is plenty of anger to deal with in Nigeria. There is enough anger to go around. It was anger, tapped, mined and dammed for use that led to the loss by the incumbent in 2015. Anger propelled the rallying cry for change that brought this government to power. That anger will not simply diffuse or melt into thin air. The anger has not gone and will not go, unless and until the underlying concerns that propelled the anger are seen to have been addressed.
There are different forms of anger. The anger of today does not care about history. It does not care about the economics of exchange rate. It does not care about how corruption has brought the nation to its knees. The anger here does not care much about where we are coming from. This anger is passionate about results. It is the age of anger. It is not the age of reason. To seek to rationalize or reason over this anger is to be mistaken.
There is anger in the land. Some have found expression in terrorism. Some have taken to sundry crimes. Kidnapping has been on the upsurge, of late. Some are, thankfully, being let out via the Social Media. There, we are increasingly finding out how deep-seated this anger is. With the anger has gone out of the window our ability for civil engagement. Appreciation of other perspectives to an issue has become very difficult.  We are no longer able to disagree without hurling insults at each other. It is the age of Anger. It is in the nature of the age to rage over opinions that do not fall in line with ours.
There is anger in the land. There is anger in the air. Some are yet to get over the loss of the 2015 elections. Some might never get over it, lost in the arms of a dream majority of the electorate elected to reject.  Yet, it continues to rule their hearts. They see everything only through the eyes of 2015. That anger has taken solace in cynicism. That anger sees the negative in everything, takes to tearing apart even before coming to an understanding of the issue at hand. That anger puffs up, robbing one of the much-needed temperances, opening one to error and reluctance to back-track even in the face of contrary evidence. That anger wishes evil on the land of one’s birth just to score cheap political points. That anger wishes another person dead. It is the kind of anger that cannot be assuaged.
Yet, there is the place of anger, legitimate anger, the one that queries the lethargy in certain aspects of governance, the anger that questions the tardiness and needless waste of time, given the urgency of the task at hand. There is the anger that matters the policy direction of government and pace of work in many areas. No one queries that kind of anger. Decades of opportunities wasted and brazen looting of resources compels anger when yet another chance for a breakaway from an inglorious past is seen as not being wholly embraced.
Leadership, however, does not seem to fully understand how to deal with the anger and cynicism in the air. As Nye reminds us, “too often, political leaders think “that the problem is simply that others lack information and that if they simply know what we know, they would do things our way. But all information goes through cultural filters, and declaratory statements are rarely heard as intended.” They seem not to know that “post-modern public are generally skeptical of authority and governments are often mistrusted.” There is an art to governance and communication in the age of anger.
Yet, for the citizen, there is the place of anger, there are uses for it. How we bottle the anger in the air into a meaningful energy to take this land from the hand of vampires is what we should be engaged with, not trading insults and engaging in petty disagreements over nothing. It is the age of anger. What do we do with ours?