Wrath: a sin with a purpose?

Wrath or anger as it is more commonly called, is usually cast in a very negative light. Anger is often seen as something that comes to us as a bad emotional response that needs to be controlled. Indeed, “Anger-Management” courses are given to employees that are seen to be unable to keep their anger under control. Yet, as much as anger or wrath can be a potentially dangerous emotion or sin, it can also be the fuel that creates positive changes in society.

Anger is not always destructive; it can be used constructively for the betterment of society.

Suffragettes

Britain, although officially a democracy since the late 16th century, was extremely restrictive on who could be allowed to vote.  Despite some groups gradually being given the vote, at the beginning of the 20th century, all woman were still disenfranchised. This gave rise to the Suffragette movement.

The Suffragettes -Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) – were a political group, who campaigned in the early 20th century for the right of Women in Britain to vote. There were marches, hunger strikes and even stones thrown through windows of government buildings to demonstrate dissatisfaction. These actions demonstrated the strong feeling amongst the Suffragettes. The advent of the First World War meant the activity of the Suffragettes declined significantly, but, with the increase of roles women would perform, (especially traditionally perceived men’s roles)   demonstrated women’s equal right to the vote. This would eventually win women the right to vote.

 It is more than likely that without a certain level of anger to fight a perceived injustice, that the hard-won right may not have been gained.

British_suffragette_clipped
Photograph of a Suffragette Campaigner

 

Creativity, Bob Dylan and Protest Songs

Another thing that may often be overlooked is that anger, in a positive sense can be channelled into great creativity.

Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind and other protest songs would have been unlikely to have been written had it not been for frustration and anger. This anger was a force to create change. Specifically, the song Blowin’ in the Wind inspired many protest movements, notably the African-American Civil Rights movement. A movement which helped to fight for equal rights for black and white people in the United States of America.

Anger can be channelled to create positive change in a society.

Final Thoughts…

Our first reaction to anger, may naturally be one of disapproval. Admittedly, this may be appropriate for an uncontrolled rage that is not constructive, and only drains energy. Hopefully this article has demonstrated that anger is not always bad, and can sometimes be a force for good.

What are your thoughts on wrath? Do you have any examples of when anger has been used in a constructive way? Let us know, and comment below.

The Wrath of Film

For this month’s theme of ‘Wrath’ or ‘Anger’ I have chosen three quite different films but all of them have Wrath or anger at their core. The first one I have chosen is Gone Girl by David Finch.

Gone Girl by David Finch – 2014

Of course, this is an adaptation of the novel by Gillian Flynn but what makes this film such a successful adaptation is that the screenplay was written by the author herself so the spirit of the original remains true. In Gone Girl [DVD] [2014] we see the dysfunctional relationship of Nick Dunne and Amy Elliott Dunne. The film is split into two halves; the first half concerns the disappearance of Amy and the likelihood of her being murdered by her husband. Wrath is everywhere in this film, the dangerous wrath of Amy towards her husband, the subsequent annoyed wrath of her husband towards Amy, the wrath of Margo Nick’s twin sister also towards Amy and the wrath of the media towards Nick Dunne. I absolutely love the book but am including the film because I saw it at the cinema with two people who had not previously read the book and it was a great moment to see the look on their faces when the huge plot twist was revealed halfway through the film! Rosamund Pike’s performance is excellent, she plays the role superbly, also Carrie Coon as Margo is very good also. This is a successful adaptation and a good one to show that not all adaptations have to be so very different from the original source material.

Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese – 1976

“Some day a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the street…Here is a man who would not take it anymore.”

Taxi Driver [DVD] [1976] [1999] tells the story of Travis Bickle, (Robert De Niro) a wrathful, socially maladjusted ex-Vietnam Veteran who lives a lonely life and decides to become a night shift taxi driver on the mean streets of New York. He has few or no friends, only acquaintances, he is racist and right wing in his viewpoint. He begins to detest humanity, especially after a failed date with Betsy (a WASPy campaign worker). He decides to assassinate the Presidential candidate that Betsy works for but when this attempt fails he instead embarks on a mercy mission to rescue Iris an underage prostitute from her abusive pimp (Harvey Keitel). During the rescue mission (which is incredibly gory and violent), Travis murders everyone in the apartment complex where Iris works (sans Iris). All of these shady people seem to be involved with drugs and or prostitution. The ending of the film is really disturbing as he is rewarded for killing the scum off the streets and rescuing Iris and presented as a good guy when in fact he is most likely a murderous psychopath. At the end we also see Betsy enter the cab once more and she seems more eager to start a relationship with Travis (another reward for his behaviour). The film as it was made in 1976 seems to prophecise the clean-up / gentrification of New York, the rise of Right Wing Reganism and the rewards, financial and status based for rich, white people as opposed to the poorer ethnic groups.

Ring by Hideo Nakata – 1998

Adapted from the also excellent novel by Koji Suzuki, Ring (1998) [DVD] [2000] is a clever story based on the premise that anyone who watches a cursed videotape will die a week later. TV Reporter Reiko Asakawa discovers that her niece and later on herself and her son have viewed the tape and have found the story to be true so there follows a race against time to break the curse and save them. Reiko’s ex-husband Ryuji Takayama helps her on her quest to discover why this tape became cursed in the first place. The story behind why the tape is cursed is sad as it appears that a vulnerable girl from the past with psychic abilities was badly treated and subsequently infused the tape with her anger to wreak revenge in others. The special effects are excellent and really emphasise Japan’s horror at the speed of growing technological change and development. The film also breaks the notion of the screen as a fourth wall, as walls seem to be pretty porous here!

So for this month’s theme of wrath/anger we have a mix of a World horror film, a classic neo-noir and a contemporary thriller. All these examples show the danger of living a life full of wrath and that living full of wrath does not lead to a happy life!

‘Anger’ in Gardening

‘Anger’ in the world of Gardening and plants is portrayed in differing ways. From the fiery reds of bottle brush (callistemon) flower to the sharp spines on an agave leaf and the quickly shutting snare of the Venus fly trap. All of these are ways the world of plants we feel show its wrath or anger.

bottle

Sometimes the landscape which the plant is set into can be equally as evocative, a good example is this huge spiky agave and the dark, volcanic stone substrate which is every bit as unforgiving.

agave

Anger or Wrath in gardening is often expressed in forms or colours and sometimes a combination of the two.

Volcanic landscapes with their harsh, almost moon like appearance such as here is Lanzarote can be some of the toughest environments on earth.

Lanzarote

In stark contrast to our interpretation of these plants portraying anger or wrath they are of course methods of survival, from attracting pollinators, preventing being plagued to even eating insects to survive in an environment with highly acidic soil.

This leads us to truly think about gardening as a somewhat of a case of humans shaping nature to create or evoke themes and ideas, to compare and contrast forms with foliage and landscapes.

Just as a landscape uses different features such as rocks, grass and trees, we as gardeners use these elements in addition to colours both of flowers and substrates to evoke a particular concept or theme.

What truly constitutes anger in gardening is the feelings we experience by looking at particular plants, colours and landscapes.

 

A-Maya-zing! The Maya Exhibition in Liverpool

I recently paid a visit to the World Museum in Liverpool to see the exhibition ‘Mayas: Revelation of an endless time.’ I had never visited this museum before and was impressed by what I saw. It looked to be a modern, airy and well-designed museum and not just in the special exhibition areas. The foyer was impressive with a huge skeleton of a Pterodactyl hanging from above!

The World Museum is the only museum in the UK to host this exhibition which is part of the ‘2015 Year of Mexico in the United Kingdom’ and ‘Year of the United Kingdom in Mexico.’ The artefacts have been assembled from the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) in Mexico. A great bonus about this exhibition is one that it is FREE! Which is astonishing when you see the sheer amount of artefacts on display. Another bonus is that you are allowed to take photographs as long as you turn the flash off on the camera that you use. Which is great news for many visitors especially those of us who write blogs!

Head of Pakal Late Classic Period (AD 600-900)
Head of Pakal
Late Classic Period
(AD 600-900)

The exhibition is displayed in a chronological fashion, with a few information panels throughout but what is really clever is that the curators let the incredible artefacts speak for themselves through displaying the smaller ones in a series of glass cabinets and the larger stone sculptures on plinths. I was astounded at the size of the exhibition as when you first walk into the room it appears to be smaller than you think, but it is cleverly laid out so that it is Tardis like and swings round to the right and goes further and further back.

Before I visited the museum, I did not know a lot about the Maya civilisation apart from some general knowledge facts but I learnt so much from the exhibition about the Maya. One of the first things I learnt was that the Maya civilisation lasted a very long time from 3000BC till 1617 (when 90% of the population had been wiped out from disease and slaughter brought by the Spanish Conquisition). Today though, there are more than six million Maya people still living in Maya areas.

Jade Necklace and Bar-Shaped Jade Pendants  Late Classic Period (AD600-900)
Jade Necklace and Bar-Shaped Jade Pendants
Late Classic Period
(AD600-900)

As stated previously, the exhibition is arranged chronologically into Pre classic (300BC-AD250), Classic (AD250-900) and Post Classic (AD900-AD1550) periods. At the centre of Maya civilisations were huge stone cities with pyramids that contained temples and palaces of the royal courts). These stone cities were the epicentre of Maya culture, a culture that was very advanced and had developed its own calendar and writing system. Maya cities were also very organised civilisations in that they housed administrative, military, religious and arts and crafts centres.

Funerary Mask from Dzibanche Late Classic Period (AD 600-900)
Funerary Mask from Dzibanche
Late Classic Period
(AD 600-900)

The Maya peoples were very in touch with the natural world and this was shown in the exhibition in the animal artefacts displayed. The Maya also grew Maize which they held as a sacred crop and cocoa which they also believed to be very important. They believed that animals were sacred beings who possessed souls. Certain animals such as jaguars, snakes and owls were worshipped as they were believed to be closer to the gods (as some had special abilities such as being able to fly). There even built a temple called the Temple of the Owl in Dzibanche, Quintana Roo, Mexico. In the exhibition there were many artefacts that displayed such beliefs as the one below:

Head of a Pelican  Late Classic Period (AD 600-900)
Head of a Pelican
Late Classic Period (AD 600-900)

The Maya undertook regular religious rituals as they believed that the gods needed to be sated with blood from animals and humans as blood was seen as the ‘life source.’ So sacrifices were essential for the continued survival of gods and the universe.

Before conducting a sacrifice they would firstly partake of a cleansing ceremony where they would not sleep and abstain from relations. After this, the rituals could begin which included: prayers, incense, singing, dancing, feasts of food and drink followed by human or animal sacrifice.

One of the strangest artefacts on display was a blood letting tool that the Mayas used to pierce either their tongue or in the case of men their genitals to drain blood to offer to the gods. Apart from this sharp stick on display they also had clay sculptures of men injuring themselves in this way with a look of pure agony on their faces!

Human Figurines Late Classic Period (AD 600-900)
Human Figurines
Late Classic Period
(AD 600-900)

Another important part of the exhibition is the amount of Jade on display which was truly astonishing! Jade was used by the Maya in jewellery and for adornment on breastplates etc. Both women and men wore jewellery and as well as necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets, hair adornments and decorated breastplates they also created funerary masks out of jade and ear plugs. Jade was one of the main materials used for adornment although they did use obsidian, gold, turquoise, silver and other materials depending on the time period. The Maya could certainly be said to like their bling, they could even be said to be one of the first civilisations that invented a type of grill or tooth adornment as they decorated their teeth by drilling holes through the centre of the top teeth and inserted jade, turquoise and iron pyrites through the holes!

Overall, this exhibition was fascinating. I learnt so much about the Maya and since purchasing this fascinating book from the gift shop, plan to keep on learning lots more. If you are near to or able to visit Liverpool this Summer then I would highly recommend you take time out to visit this excellent FREE exhibition which is on till 18th October 2015.

Wrathful Pages: Anger in Literature

This month’s theme is ‘Wrath’ or ‘Anger.’ A useful dramatic emotion used by writers for centuries, there were quite a few examples to choose from here! However, this month we have an eclectic mix of literature, something for everyone, not matter your reading tastes. The first one is actually a Greek play called ‘Medea.’

Medea by Euripides

Is there a more wrathful figure in literature than Medea? Medea and Other Plays : Medea; Hecabe; Electra; Heracles (Penguin Classics) is a play but we can learn a lot about the sin of wrath or anger from her behaviour. I recently re-read this short play again and was once more taken aback at how modern some of the Greek plays actually are, certainly in language and in the strong female roles:

Jason: “You thought that it reason enough to murder them,
That I
No longer slept with you?”
Medea: “And is that injury
A Slight one, do you imagine, to a woman?” pg 59

In Medea we see the literal re-enactment of ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ As Medea ex-wife of Jason (of the Argonauts fame) feels she has to punish her husband because he has run off with a younger royal woman. She does this by killing those that he holds dear to him, his new wife and (her father) but also their two sons. This is where the play becomes controversial in that the Chorus pleads with her not to do this as it is so wrong. At the start of the play though, she does not seem to have much affection for her sons as they remind her too much of her husband. We are warned repeatedly by the Chorus and other characters such as the Nurse about the dreadful rage that Medea has for she is described as being:

Nurse: “A frightening woman; no one who makes an enemy
Of her will carry off an easy victory…Her mood is cruel, her nature dangerous,
Her will fierce and intractable
…It is no trifling matter
That can end a rage like hers.” pg 18-22

One other thing that struck me re-reading the play is that Medea says she worships the Goddess Hecate who is associated with magic and witchcraft. Thus painting the picture of Medea as an evil witch.

At the start of the play we do have some sympathy with Medea in that Jason has treated her badly by abandoning her for another woman and not stopping her exile from her home. He comes across as being arrogant, and not particularly sharp in that he underestimates Medea’s rage. However, we see that at first Medea is destroyed with grief but turns this in to incessant rage which causes her to go so far as to murder her own two innocent boys which is of course an unforgivable act (not that killing the new wife was ok of course!).

In a nutshell this play shows the all-consuming power of rage caused by anger and the dangerous actions that can be caused by being obsessed by it.

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly

Another title that I’ve recently read that utilises the theme of anger is called Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly. The story concerns the friendship of Natasha Wainwright and Eve Dalladay who have been closest friends since childhood. Natasha has become a successful hotelier (with OCD) and has two daughters with her husband Sean who has been with her since she was a teenager. Though they have a good relationship things have been quiet on the sensual front recently. Eve has had a successful career in America as a Psychotherapist. When an incident happens with one of her children which pulls Natasha away from the family home then Eve moves in to mind her children, her home and her husband. Of course you can guess what happens next.

What becomes really interesting though is Natasha’s reassessment of her life so far in that she realises that her friendship with Eve was based on a lie and that she is dealing with all intents and purposes; a narcissistic psychopath. Eve is consumed with rage and anger towards Natasha and has been for years, she sees her having a successful life and wants to takeover this like a cuckoo in a nest. This book is clever in that it contrasts the different expressions of anger, Natasha’s more instant rage versus Eve’s more controlled but possibly more dangerous form of anger. How to defeat an angry psychopath who does not have empathy or compassion? Read this book and find out!

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Purple Hibiscus (P.S.)is a novel set in Nigeria. The story is narrated from the point of view of Kambili Achike a fifteen year old girl living in a wealthy but very oppressive household. Her father Eugene is a devout Catholic and makes much of his public good acts such as donating to charity but runs his house with an iron fist subjecting family members to regular physical and mental abuse. His beatings are so severe that they cause his wife to have two miscarriages. Eugene is a man obsessed and overrun with anger which clouds his judgement, he is also a hypocrite in that his public actions do not mirror those at home. Through this story we see the consequences of his behaviour caused by living a life consumed by anger.

Kamibili experiences this unhealthy family dynamic and contrasts it with that of her more liberal Auntie Ifeoma’s household, which though unconventional and poorer is much more relaxed. This is an excellent book and one that shows that a life lived in anger especially if it affects people you love is no way to live.

This month has been quite a mixed bag of titles. One from ancient times, another from another country and one contemporary novel. What they all have in common though is the universal theme of anger expressed largely through one or more characters and the consequences of their actions. If you can think of any other examples then feel free to get in touch at the usual places.