— Homer, Iliad, 1.1-5
Anger, that most ancient and dangerous of emotional forces, predates the development of human reason, and still, today, for many people, is an internal dictator of impulsive action and subjugator of rational thought.
On a daily basis, we see the results of unregulated anger on an individual level – assaults, confrontations, hateful invective – incidents and sentiments that in the Cayman Islands, it seems, are becoming more and more commonplace, what with growing financial stress, pressure for reform and change, and perceptions of direct threats to people’s accustomed ways of life.
In a strictly scientific sense, it is only natural for a person’s first response to conflict to be the emotion of anger, which originates in the primitive part of the brain (the limbic system) associated with simpler life forms. Only after the onset of initial anger are the higher mental faculties called into play to modulate that anger with reason. Put another way, anger (in fact, all emotions) precede reason and rationality.
That’s why it’s literally true that an angry mob has no mind.
A group of angry individuals, emboldened by anonymity and left unchecked by judicious authorities or societal norms, can quickly spiral into threatening, even very dangerous, behavior.
In every society, to some extent, an undercurrent of anger runs among those who feel they are being challenged, marginalized or overlooked. In Cayman, we observe that this has been rising in some sectors of the population – Caymanian and expatriate – noticeably in the 10 years since the onslaught of Hurricane Ivan.
Radio talk show hosts talk openly of “revolution” and then, gratuitously, condemn it. Anonymous bloggers make statements they would never utter if their names were attached to their words. (Their hateful words were in full flower following the “not guilty” verdicts in the McKeeva Bush trial.)
At Kaibo in North Side recently, diners did nothing (other than to continue dining) as they witnessed an individual being beaten into unconsciousness after being struck with a two-by-four. At sporting events, brawls break out all too routinely on the playing field, parents of youngsters too often the participants.
Even within the Legislative Assembly, certain members are known not for their eloquence but for their bombast. Tantrums that one might associate with 4-year-olds in the aisles of Foster’s Food Fair are regularly on display. While elected members don’t have anonymity, they do have “privilege” and thus are immune from prosecution for the libel, slander, and defamation they utter. They would never repeat on the street the vitriol they spew on the floor of the House, thereby inviting the additional charge of cowardice.
For these reasons and others, it is imperative that Cayman’s thought leaders be willing to step forward as individuals, with their names attached to their comments, to seize ownership and leadership of the debate over Cayman’s future.
We urge the elevation of this discussion to a higher plane, and to channel the country’s heated energy into calm, measured and constructive action. As a country, we don’t need unanimity of opinion, but we do need unity of purpose.
This is a test not just of Cayman’s strength or will as a people, but of the soundness of our character as a society.