“I’m Mad As Hell And I’m Not Going to Take It Any More.”
Poet and philosopher Maya Angelou is so respected that MEA’s first cohort is named after her. She once wrote, “Be angry. It is right to be angry. It is healthy!”
If you’ve ever seen the 1975 film classic, “Network,” you’ll probably remember Howard Beale, veteran news anchor, who declared on national TV that he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. It was a spine-chilling scene, which might contain a contemporary lesson for us all. Could this moment in time be our Great Awakening—a moment so sudden, so global, so deep in its effect that it shouts out to the world that change is “a-coming.” Or is the anger just coming from those who want to reopen the economy because their livelihood is at stake? All I know is the anger seems to be rising.
Anthropologists call these “inversion rituals” where the drunken revelry of Mardi Gras precedes the abstinence of Lent and the theatrics of Halloween usher in the devotional piety of All Saints Day. It’s above my paygrade to know if we’ve “Woke” this time. But, in the meantime, let me share a couple Howard Beale quotes from 45 years ago:
“Well, the time has come to say 'Is 'dehumanization' such a bad word?' Whether it's good or bad, that's what is so. The whole world is becoming humanoid, creatures that look human but aren't. The whole world, not just us. We're just the most advanced country, so we're getting there first. The whole world's people are becoming mass-produced, programmed, numbered, insensate things.”
“I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work, or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter, punks are running wild in the street, and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it! We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be! We know things are bad — worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don't want you to protest, I don't want you to riot, I don't want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first, you've got to get mad! [shouting] You've got to say: 'I'm a human being, goddammit! My life has value!' So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
I don’t know about you, but I think it might be the Earth that is tapping into its inner Howard Beale. It’s as mad as hell (and hot as hell with climate change). Maybe now is a good time for us all to shout from our quarantined windows—our own personal declarations that we want a different kind of world. Or maybe just make music from our balconies like the Italians did. They proved even in the most painful times we can be as glad as hell even when we feel we can’t take it anymore.