Sustainable Outrage

At first, it was difficult to brush aside the carnage.

We see the horror of war and empathize with those engulfed by it.

We get angry at the senselessness of it.

We get agitated that one man’s evil ambition can wreak havoc on millions of innocent people who just want to live their lives.

But as the war drags on, we’ll grow to accept it as part of the global landscape.

For Ukrainians, outrage and anger fuel their fight and their will to survive.

For Ukrainians, outrage is ammunition. Outrage is necessary.

But for us watching the war from a safe distance, in 3-minute segments on flat-screen TVs, maintaining the same level of outrage we felt initially is not sustainable. Not because we’re callous or ambivalent, but because that level of outrage interferes with our daily routine and our need to get on with our lives.

Humans are not wired to maintain a constant state of outrage when their environment does not merit it, or when their survival does not depend on it.

For those not directly impacted by war, extended outrage is an impediment. To move on with our lives, outrage gives way to a begrudging (and guilt-laden) acceptance of other people’s suffering.

In a way, turning off our outrage becomes a survival mechanism.

Putin understands this.

Putin is betting that the world will get tired of feeling outrage.

Putin knows that outrage has a short shelf-life and all he has to do for victory is wait us out.

We need sustainable outrage to stand up against the enemies of freedom and democracy.

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