Some Thoughts on Anger

Girlwithadragonflytattoo has a post on anger, in which she argues that expressing one’s anger is generally not a good idea, from the standpoint of one’s own mental health.

Dragonfly Girl’s post reminded me of a recent post by Grim, in which he discusses anger in a political context, and channels Andrew Klavan to point out that anger can make you stupid.

Grim:  We need to be cunning.  We need to think and act strategically.

Klavan:  You want to win back your country? Here’s how. Fear nothing. Hate no one. Stick to principles. Unchecked borders are dangerous not because Mexicans are evil but because evil thrives when good men don’t stand guard. Poverty programs are misguided, not because the poor are undeserving criminals, but because dependency on government breeds dysfunction and more poverty. Guns save lives and protect liberty. Property rights guarantee liberty. Religious rights are essential to liberty. Without liberty we are equal only in misery.

Anger of course does have a purpose.  In politics, it is anger at bad policies and their destructive impact that can motivate one to get involved and work hard for positive change.  In relationships, anger at mistreatment can motivate one to fix it or get out of it.  But anger needs to be controlled and moderated or it becomes the enemy of judicious thought and effective action.

Speaking of effective action, the original post also reminded me (oddly enough!) of a famous event in military history, the Charge of the Light Brigade.  This  unnecessary disaster took place during the Crimean War, in 1854, and seems to have been driven in considerable part by toxic emotions on the part of British officers involved.  While the details of the Charge are still being debated by historians,  161 years later, the general outline was as follows…

The Light Cavalry Brigade was commanded by Lord Cardigan, who in turn was subordinate to the overall Cavalry commander, Lord Lucan.  The two men were related, and they could not stand each other, to the point where they avoided communication.  Neither was popular in the army.

On October 25, the overall British commander in the Crimea, Lord Raglan, was situated on high ground, from which he had a far better view of the field than did Cardigan and Lucan.  He and his staff observed that the Russians had captured some heavy British guns and were about to haul them away.  An order was dispatched to Lucan under the signature of Raglan’s chief of staff:

Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front – follow the enemy and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop Horse Artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. R Airey. Immediate.

The order was handed to Captain Louis Nolan, a superb horseman who was sure to deliver it as rapidly as possible.  In addition to his equestrian skills, Nolan was an experienced military professional who had devoted considerable thought to cavalry tactics and written books on the subject.  He believed the cavalry was being mishandled in the Crimean campaign and he viewed Cardigan and Lucan as men who lacked military professionalism and held their positions only because of their inherited social status.  Nolan had also served in India, and the snob Cardigan was highly prejudiced against officers with that background, believing they lacked the social graces and elegance of attire which were important to him. (Indeed, on one occasion Cardigan had persecuted Nolan for ordering what he believed to be a socially-unacceptable kind of wine.)

As Nolan galloped away, Raglan called after him, “Tell Lord Lucan the cavalry is to attack immediately.”  Nolan sent his horse diving down the hill and quickly reached the place where the cavalry was stationed.

“Lord Raglan’s orders,”  Nolan told Lucan, “are that the cavalry should attack immediately.”  His tone of voice can only be guessed at, but it is said that he was “already mad with anger”…at Lucan, at Cardigan, and at the whole British command structure and what he believed to be their incompetence.

“Attack, sir! Attack what? What guns, sir? Where and what to do?”

“There, my Lord! There is your enemy! There are your guns!” Nolan snapped back, waving his arm in a gesture “more of rage than of indication.”

Lucan could not see the British guns which were being hauled away; the only guns in sight were the Russian battery at the far end of the North valley, where Russian cavalry was also stationed.  Certainly Nolan’s “impertinent and flamboyant” gesture had seemed to point in that direction.  Lucan trotted over and passed on the order to Cardigan, who, “coldly polite,” dropped his sword in salute.

“Certainly, sir,” Cardigan responded. “But allow me to point out to you that the Russians have a battery in the valley on our front, and riflemen and batteries on each flank.”

“I know it,” replied Lucan.  “But Lord Raglan will have it.  We have no choice but to obey.”

Raglan and his staff, and the French allies, watched in horror as the beautifully-uniformed Light Brigade, which they had expected to turn in the direction of the captured guns, headed straight down the valley into the jaws of the main Russian battery position.  Nolan, who had chosen to ride with the brigade, cut across in front of the commander, Cardigan, waving his sword and shouting something–he could not be heard because of the boom of the Russian guns, but almost certainly he was trying to warn Cardigan that he was going the wrong way.  One of the first shells to be fired killed him (Nolan) in the saddle.  Breaking into a gallup, the Brigade continued toward the Russian position, now under fire from three sides.

The Light Brigade did reach the Russian battery and kill most of the Russian gunners; the military value of this is questionable.  When what was left of the Brigade returned to its starting point, 156 of its members had been killed or were missing, and 122 were wounded.  335 horses had been killed or mortally wounded.

“It is a mad-brained trick,” said Cardigan to a group of survivors, “But it is no fault of mine.”

So, what happened here?  In part, the debacle was caused by technical/intellectual failings…Airey’s order could have been clearer, pointing out the direction of the designated target, which he knew Lucan and Cardigan could not see.  But the main cause of the disaster, I think, was emotional.  If Nolan had been able to contain his (apparently quite justified) anger at Lucan and Cardigan, and to cooly point out the direction of the target, then Raglan’s original order would surely have been carried out as intended.  If Lucan and Cardigan had not disliked one another so strongly, they might have been able to discuss the order for a moment and recognize that their interpretation of it didn’t make any sense–the guns they had interpreted as their assigned target were not being “carried away.”  And after the Charge had already begun, if Cardigan had been able to keep his fury at Nolan under control (he thought Nolan’s crossing in front of him meant the Nolan was trying to take command of the Brigade), he might have recognized that he needed to change directions.  (In the event, Cardigan’s mind was possessed with rage at Nolan both during the charge and the return.)

It is disturbing to think that the relationship among much of the American leadership today is just about as toxic as the relationships that existed among Lucan, Cardigan, and Nolan.

Again, anger can be an effective motivator for action, but it must be controlled if that action is to be effective.

21 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Anger”

  1. I am reading Bernard Cornwell’s history of Waterloo, which is excellent. He points out that Wellington believed that the British cavalry was indisciplined. At Waterloo, the Scots Greys, a heavy cavalry troop, broke the French infantry assault on the British line on the British right. Having broken the French infantry, which was very susceptible to cavalry when not in squares, the cavalry kept on to charge the French guns farther down the muddy hill.

    Wellington said; “the British cavalry never know when to stop charging”.

    The troopers sabred some of the French gunners but they were than attacked by the French lancers who were on fresh horses and the Scots Greys were destroyed as a unit.

    The British were counter-attacked by French Lancers and suffered such heavy casualties as to eliminate the brigade from the battle. The brigade commander General Ponsonby was killed.

    Things had probably not changed much in the British army. Wellington depended on his infantry and did not trust the leadership of the cavalry. They did, however, break the French infantry and the battle was eventually won but not by much.

    The book is excellent. His first non-fiction book. I have read many of his novels.

  2. Pardon my cynicism, but these complaints about anger strike as an attempt to herd wayward conservative sheep back into the pen for another shearing come 2016.

    No thank you. I don’t particularly care for Trump personally but I like what he’s saying. No doubt it could be said better but in any case it should have been said long ago.

    I’ve noticed that there seems to be no slur so terrible or lie so vile that it cannot be used against conservatives- and casually, without any leftist expecting any response from the people supposedly elected to represent us at the cancer on the Potomac. Lately, I’ve come to believe that the reason why there is never a response is because those folks agree with the left, and hate us every bit as much. They can’t say so, of course- but they don’t need to, because their actions speak much louder than any words. Of course, on the other hand, folks beloved by the left are expected to be above any criticism at all, ever- even foreign rapists and murderers let loose by the regime to rape and kill again.

    I’m done with this. Either one of the other gopers says what Trump says, only better, or I’m out. Let it burn, as the saying goes, and the sooner the present regime collapses the better, because the fewer the foreigners it will be able to import to vote against us. Or fight against us, if it comes to that.

    Military metaphor? I’ve got one. I recall the well-conducted retreat waged by Joseph E. Johnston against the superior forces of William T. Sherman. Realizing that the South was losing the war and a well conducted retreat wasn’t good enough, Johnston was relieved by Jefferson Davis and replaced by John Bell Hood- who proceeded to attack and attack again until the Confederate army in the West was utterly destroyed.

    But the South would have lost anyway, because it was very likely that Johnston would have been unable to hold Atlanta until the 1864 elections, thus depriving the Confederacy of its last hope of victory by failing to convince the Northern electorate that the war effort was futile.

    Back to the present. Bluntly, we are losing this struggle. Not every battle, but enough- and the eventual outcome is clear. If we keep going down this road, we’re done- and the Republic is finished.

    Our back is against the wall. We may as well get mad, because restraining our anger simply hasn’t worked.

  3. Sufficient numbers of people supporting Trump will quite likely encourage him to run as a third party candidate and throw the election to the Democrats. Is that what you want?

  4. Re Trump—here’s what he said in the wake of the Islamist attempt to murder Pam Geller:

    “I watched Pam earlier, and it really looks like she’s just taunting everybody. What is she doing drawing Muhammad? I mean it’s disgusting. Isn’t there something else they could be doing? Drawing Muhammad? … They can’t do something else? They have to be in the middle of Texas doing something on Muhammad and insulting everybody? What is she doing? Why is she doing it? It’s probably very risky for her — I don’t know, maybe she likes risk? But what the hell is she doing?”

    Not exactly a clarion call of support for free speech, is it?

  5. Peggy Noonan has a pretty good column on Trump today.

    Of course she got a lot of pushback and I am not a Trump fan but she makes good points.

    It is precisely because people have lost their awe for the presidency that they imagine Mr. Trump as a viable president. American political establishment, take note: In the past 20 years you have turned America into a nation a third of whose people would make Donald Trump their president. Look on your wonders and despair.

    The despicable behavior of Democrats and people like Patrick Fitzgerald, reputedly a Republican appointee, has made people very cynical about politicians. The Bushes, for all their issues t=with competence and conservatism, were dignified and treated the office as if it deserves respect.

    The Clinton staffers, like Stephanopolis, were dismissive of any respect, eating pizza at their desks and prying off all the “Ws” from the keyboards as they left the White House a trash heap in 2001.

    I think Codevilla has it about right.

    Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

    And not a very intelligent or competent class at that.

    Also, the Diplomad has an excellent post this week. I read his blog every day and hold him in as high regard as I have for Richard Fernandez.

    Unlike liberals who see what they believe, conservatives tend to believe what we see. We do not see a country in the grip of racial tension, at least not until the charlatans begin to act. I always harken back to my years in Sri Lanka; now, my friends, there was a country ripped open by a genocidal ethnic hatred stirred up by politicians. I saw the same process in Guyana and throughout much of the Caribbean: ordinary people getting along until rabble rousers arrive and drive wedges between them.
    In sum, we have had way too many conversations about race. Let’s stop talking about race, stop giving opportunities to those who would divide us.

    I wonder if anyone would have the guts to say that even obliquely in public.

    I sent a donation to Carly this week. Not a big one but I am starting to come around to her.

  6. “Guns save lives and protect liberty.”

    The entire article, especially the Light Brigade proves this lie.

    ‘We are dumb and will do as we are told.”

    You kill more people with guns than anyone outside of a state actually doing war.

    It’s an obvious safety hazard outside of any political and religious, I kid you not, situation. The, perhaps freest country in the world, destroying it’s self with a mad idea.

  7. >You kill more people with guns than anyone outside of a state actually doing war.<

    well "planned parenthood" does even better clown and they're state supported!!11!!

  8. First, it is noticed by conservatives, and probably any impartial observers, that the Republican establishment would rather lose to a Democrat than win with a conservative. We have seen it time and again across the country. Mississippi, here in Colorado where the Republicans actively conspired against the TEA Party when we won nominations fair and square. There are examples all over the country. The illusion of working within the system has been thoroughly shattered.

    Second, based on that, and knowing that the Republican Party establishment wants ¡Jeb! Bush at all costs, even though [and likely because] he has no policy differences with Hillary!; we know that the Republican Party will work against anyone more conservative than ¡Jeb! and against anyone who will actually stand and fight the Left on anything. You know it, I know it, all y’all know it.

    Third, the working within the system has changed. The rules at the Nominating Convention were changed at the last convention to make it harder for anyone not supported by the establishment to get nominated.

    From that point of view, devotion to the Republican Party makes absolutely no sense. The choice that the Republicans are going to try to force on us is between Hillary!, and a Republican version of Hillary! [¡Jeb!] with male wedding tackle.

    Fourth, in 2014 the Republicans campaigned on fighting back; against Obamacare, against Obama’s claimed power to rule by decree, and against Permanent Open Borders and Amnesty. We busted our a**es and gave them a record landslide and control of both Houses of Congress. And they promptedly ratified and funded Obamacare, Obama’s power to rule by decree, and Permanent Open Borders and Amnesty. McConnell and Boehner collude with the Democrats against Republican conservatives. They have done nothing that Reid and Pelosi would object to, and gone farther in abasing themselves before Obama than Reid and Pelosi would ever do.

    Believing in anything they may eventually say about what they would do [subjects that they are avoiding completely now] falls under the heading of “Fool me once, shame on you . . . “.

    So, if the Republican Party will not take up the issues raise by Trump [I don’t expect them to treat Trump like the prodigal son.], they give no reason to prefer them over even Hillary. And since their response to Trump has been to exclusively not only attack him, but to try to insult and attack what they are going to have to have as their own voters to win in any putative 2016 election, as “stupid”, “bigoted”, “crazy”, and “retarded”; they are guaranteeing that they will lose. When someone tells you repeatedly, rudely and emphatically that they hate you, your family, your culture, and your little dog too, you might not want to vote for them and instead concentrate on removing the knife they have placed between your shoulderblades. And by the way, have you noticed that the only group where it is not considered a PC violation to call retarded is when the establishment calls conservatives retarded?

    If the Republicans do not nominate someone I consider to be a constitutional conservative and a fighter [and I like pretty much every conservative has a list of several that are acceptable], I’m going to vote third party anyway and hope it destroys the Republicans if nothing else. So why not Trump?

  9. “The, perhaps freest country in the world, destroying it’s self with a mad idea.”

    Yes, it was a huge mistake to elect Obama. And twice !

  10. I have trouble getting up much enthusiasm against Trump, when the democrat candidates are far worse and with a few exceptions, the republican candidates are no better. It strikes me as people complaining that he doesn’t use the proper “tone”. Republicans would rather be lied to and cheated by a well dressed elder statesman figure than a gaudy show-off. They don’t object to be lied to and cheated, just the manner in which it is done. At this point, it hardly matters who is President. The office has been debased, the bureaucracy is a partisan criminal organization and the people themselves are willing sheep, if not slaves.

    Elections are not going to change the trajectory. A massive cultural shift, possibly violent, is needed to shake the system to its core. There may be no recovery from it, but there will be no recovery without it either.

  11. “Is that what you want?”

    No. But it’s months away from the start of actual voting, and it’s very likely that either Trump or the rest of the GOP field will have imploded by then- Trump is my guess. In any case the gop has long since scrubbed away any loyalty I felt toward the party, so if The Donald wants to run as an independent I feel like I have no dog in that particular fight.

    Perhaps Trump will win. I still recall the hilarious tales Ed Rollins told about Ross Perot in his book about his time as a political consultant, describing how Perot couldn’t understand the most basic things about political campaigns- and wouldn’t listen when he was told, either. Rollins ended up thinking Perot was a loon, but he also thought Perot could have won if he’d been a little less of one. Perhaps Trump is the guy who is crazy enough to challenge the establishment but not crazy enough to go full Perot.

    “Not exactly a clarion call of support for free speech, is it?”

    How is Trump’s viewpoint on this matter worse than that of the American political establishment, which pretends the issues raised by Pam Geller don’t exist, and has nothing to say about them at all? Has the establishment voiced any complaints against the Obama regime’s plan to import Syrians muslims into hundreds of American cities, after allowing them to murder any Christians in Syria first? Did the establishment voice any complaint when Iragi muslims were murdering Christians under the nose of the US army during the Iraq war? Has it had anything to say about the Somalis who want to impose sharia upon Minnesota?

    Or, as usual, has it been too busy telling conservatives to shut up?

    Not only that, but I missed all the clarion calls for free speech from the gop when Trump noticed that there are plenty of illegal alien murderers and rapists set free by the US government to continue murdering and raping. Shut up, they explained to Trump, because shut up. They had no comments about the illegal alien criminals, then or previously, but what Trump said was beyond the pale, requiring that he be ostracized from polite society. Meanwhile Jeb Bush, the establishment’s darling, is giving interviews in Spanish explaining how he speaks Spanish at home and definitely supports “comprehensive” immigration “reform.”

    Again, I’m done with this. It’s all well and good for people like Andrew Klavan to give us fine advice- as quoted above, and which is what motivated me to rant- but for Pete’s sake at some point we’ve got to notice that the GOP simply isn’t listening to any it- and hasn’t, for many years.

    That’s the real problem, not that rank-and-file Republicans have gotten to be little peeved about the endless failure and betrayal by the party’s establishment.

  12. “the GOP simply isn’t listening to any it- and hasn’t, for many years.”

    Some of us look at a few individuals and hope.

    A test is coming, though. The blue model is collapsing.

    Investors are bracing for Puerto Rico to miss about $58 million in bond payments in coming days, as the U.S. commonwealth attempts to restructure $72 billion of debt.

    Saturday’s deadline could mark the first skipped payment to bondholders since Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla last month said that the island’s debts were unsustainable and urged negotiations with creditors. Because Saturday is a weekend, payment can be made Monday, a spokeswoman for Puerto Rico said.

    Who in the world would buy Puerto Rican bonds ? This sounds like 1929. More is coming.

    Ultimately, bankrupt blue cities and states and their pension funds will troop to Washington with their hands out, begging for bailouts. Already we’ve seen a leading New Jersey state Democrat call for a $1 trillion federal bailout fund for pensions. The political pressures around the issue will be intense. Some (mostly Republicans) won’t want to give a single dime to the improvident fools and crooks who created this mess. Others (mostly Democrats) will insist on no-fault bailouts, arguing that social justice demands nothing less than an infinite willingness to pour money down ratholes, so long as those ratholes are Democrat-run.

    This is coming soon. Illinois will be the first big state. Maybe Chicago first.

    California is coming along with the first economic weak spot. The top-heavy California situation only seems to be OK. It’s not.

  13. The Tea Party needs to reinvent itself; it’s obvious we’re not going anyway as an adjunct to the Republican Party, as amply noted above.

    I suggest we recast ourselves as the Wolverine wing of the Republican Party. That critter matches our mood: pissed and ready for a fight. And if necessary, use that as the nucleus of a third party.

  14. David – I think you typed “1864” when you meant “1854”.

    The Crimean War was began in October 1853 and ended in February 1856.

    It’s been some time, so I don’t recall where I saw this, but here’s an interesting logistical tidbit: Britain could move men by sea to the Crimea from London inin less time than Russia could move men from Moscow.

    (I don’t know what historians think of it now, but I thought “The Reason Why” was quite good, and quite readable.)

  15. Richard–I thought “The Reason Why” was very good. Also, there is a vivid fictionalized portrayal of the event in George MacDonald Fraser’s “Flashman at the Charge”…appears to follow the actual history pretty well.

  16. If the Crimean War HAD taken place circa 1864, instead of 1854, battlefield telegraphy would have been readily available, as demonstrated by the Union forces during the American Civil War. Might have made a difference…

  17. David Foster: The British army had field telegraphs in the Crimea. See TELEGRAPH AT WAR 1854 – 1868 for an extremely detailed discussion. “The Telegraph Detachment eventually possessed eight Field Electric Telegraph stations, 24 miles of line around Sebastopol, connecting the Headquarters, Kazach, the Monastery, the Engineer Park, the Right Attack, the Light Division, Kadikoi and Balaklava.”

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