Offbeat 23 January 2015
Nowadays there is plenty of opportunity to watch a move: DVDs, DVD rentals and even whole movies on Youtube, though not the high budget flicks, just old obscure ones. From what I read in the press, Netflix is going to expand into another 160 territories over the next few years. Hopefully Namibia will be one of those.
There are a couple of movies I really want to see again, which are almost impossible to obtain here. As they are almost universally available, with the exception of a few of my strange favourites, movies aren’t particularly special anymore.
They used to be. Aside from the Saturday matinees, one of the few places I saw them was at school bazaars. The movies that I best remember at the school events were the black and white, slapstick shorts: Charlie Chaplin, and Laurel and Hardy.
The trick to those slapstick movies was the mischief or the mess, followed by the anger, the chase and the laughter as the perpetrator escaped the angry straight guy. That laughter had a kind of innocence to it, but note that without the anger, there could not be laughter. I found myself wrapped in anger the other day, and that gave me pause for thought, and the idea to write this column. The occasion was a moment when a piece of software refused to do what I wanted, in a sensible manner. My older software used to be able to do what I wanted but it has been replaced with newer software that has far more buttons and knobs, but does far less, the legacy of dumb programmers, I suppose, who are divorced from the reality of needing to get jobs done.
As I tried to get the software to do the job, I found myself pounding the desk in frustration.
I haven’t really been violently enraged in that way for over two years, and that moment shocked me.
I had to step back and do it all the hard, slow way. Yet why, I asked myself, should I be at the mercy of developers who have no practical experience of functionality, stress and deadlines? My anger was compounded not just by the idiocy of the software, but also by the idea that I should be at the mercy of a developer. Anger has its solutions. The best trick is to step back, obviously, and let the moment come to rest. Mostly, anger is like a rock, rolling down a hill in the mind. The more it proceeds the greater the momentum, and the greater the catastrophe at the bottom of the hill. Stepping back from the situation, breathing for a few moments, is a smart move, especially when the next step is to punch the computer.
Two years of no real anger, spoiled by a piece of software. That’s a pity, but there are more years ahead to maintain and solidify my composure.
The thing about anger is that it is addictive. It becomes a standard way of releasing stress in a knee-jerk manner. The more anger manifests itself, the easier it becomes to release itself the next time round, until whole days and weeks pass by with simmering undercurrents of rage in which moments of peace and contentment are rare exceptions. There’s the cost of anger: the more it manifests itself, the lower the level of happiness.
Rare moments of extreme stress may provoke anger. The rest of it comes from examples set to us. In my experience, I think that the anger we find in ourselves is empowered by the example of others. The more we see anger and violence on the part of others, the easier it is to release it. Parents show it to their children. Colleagues show it to colleagues. Perhaps the worst of the lot is that pathetic, damaged individual who needs to provoke anger in others to fill some personal hole and validate his or her own emotional incompetence, or just find entertainment with a moment of volatile emotion. Conflict and frustration are facts of life. Unfortunately, calm and contentment are not. Humanity still appreciates anger, and the force of violence, as a means to conflict resolution, even though it heads nowhere other than sparking more anger.
For my part, I need to make some kind of amends for that moment. My apologies are due to the desk.