Proper use of anger as an activism tool and application of triage

Within social justice circles, we have all learned about tone policing and how it is often used to silence the voices of the oppressed, but we dont often hear about the legitimate instances where anger leads to actions that cross the moral event horizon into problematic behavior, in the name of social justice.


Anger is a powerful and useful emotion to spread a message for sure but what most people do not realize is that anger alone can blind you and become toxic, anger must be tempered with discipline, love, and compassion. Remember the people you are talking to are human beings as well. They bleed, they feel pain, they have their own pain and burdens also, while not the same as yours and mine and perhaps not to  the level we experience as oppressed people.

To effectively use anger you have to have the self control to restrain your *behavior* and prevent it from harming others. Policing your *emotions* is wrong, and silencing but your *behavior* is fair game if it becomes problematic, harmful, or toxic. Bad behavior is bad behavior.

Do you see the differences here?

The reality is its very hard to have the level of discipline required to use this tool, but that does not mean we should throw it away, we just need to incorporate new tools to help balance it and make it useful without doing harm.

Here are some practical suggestions based on my personal experience, if anyone else has some of their own let me know in the comments and ill add them to the list.

When you see something online that makes you angry that you feel you should call out, take 5-10 minutes to step away and focus on something that calms you down, i personally like to listen to some music, or vent to a friend in private about how this made me feel, i get out the raw anger of it before i try to write , sometimes i fail at this but i do try.

Once you have dealt with the raw anger , whats left over what i call “refined anger” .

Use this refined anger as a iron rod in your spine, to keep you motivated, but don’t let it take you over and consume you.

Balance it with compassion, balance it with self control.

This also doesn’t mean that sometimes you cant stick it to a well deserving bigot, but there is a time and a place for that kind of stuff. Save that shit for the people in power, the ones who make policy, the ones who run the companies who exploit human beings and steal resources for greedy capitalist gain.

Remember principle 3? Part of that is triage. Just like an emergency room setting you should prioritize harms and threats. This doesn’t forgive or excuse other harms, it just acknowledges the reality that we might have to get to them later and focus on saving human lives.

See this? This is a good example, while not complete of the concept i am trying to point out. it attempts to prioritize saving human lives over say putting a woman on the face of a banknote, while both are issues, one is clearly a higher priority. Human lives are unique and unrepeatable and are priceless. Banknotes are things, inanimate objects. Replaceable. Besides what good does it do to put a womans face on one when so many women do not have enough money to provide for themselves?

And im not saying these other problems should not be addressed, they should, after we stop the death and exploitation of human beings that fuel the system of oppression we live in.

Im also not saying we cant express our anger at microagressions or things of that nature, we absolutely have a right to talk about what hurts us. Im speaking specifically about activism actions.

Triage is a real thing and its time we started applying it.


Do not let the big names distract you with activism actions that are low priority. This is how they make their names and money all while doing very little to challenge the status quo. its a distraction meant to sink your time momentum and energy into while yielding little real results, like a lighting rod it deflects the full force of your effort away from your true targets.

Its just yet another system of control.

Activism as approved by the establishment is not activism.






6 thoughts on “Proper use of anger as an activism tool and application of triage

  1. mhairi mcalpine

    I like your idea of triage, but most of the stuff at the top we have less influence over, while at the bottom we have more control.

    Things work their way up the triangle – the lower rungs lead to the higher ones, but proportionalitt is key.

    Anger is destructive, and sometimes things need destroyed, but things need created too, which is where the less radical campaigns come in to create the conditions for the creation of more radical developments

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  4. Sandy Hope

    I was so with you on this article, and felt it really needed to be said – until you got to the priorities issue – first, I think that’s a separate issue, but second, I think you miss the very point that activism is traumatising, and if you spend all your time working in the extremes it is too easy to lose sight of all the shades of grey and see in black and white. Communicating intelligently about how we feel not to be represented on banknotes, or how a trans women was portrayed in a TV show, is an opportunity for empathy and discussion on a topic that *isn’t* life or death, and that’s sometimes where the growth of connection can happen, and empathy and connection, well, those are the things that lead to less rape, violence and murder. So I almost think the opposite is the case – in order to manage our emotional journey through activism and remain connected to the people who are oppressing us, we need to be communicating about the small stuff and having the small wins that give us hope, it helps keep us sane when another child is raped or trans women of colour is murdered. The other issue is that by starting to prioritise which oppressions are “important” and which are not, we can get into oppression Olympics and a growing disregard for (other) people’s everyday experience of oppression.

    1. Laurelai Post author

      Are you seriously saying putting a woman on the face of a banknote will actually do anything to reduce rape or violence? Instead of say i don’t know teaching people not to rape and be violent? Or giving them more access to resources so they don’t feel desperate enough to act violent? You argument is basically that its too hard to look at the evils of the world. Well guess what i cannot *help* but see them, the evils of the world burn into my head day after day and it drives me mad i couldn’t turn it off if i wanted to and yet im alive and here talking to you, but if all seven billion people saw it like me, they would be highly motivated to fix that shit with a quickness, you sorely underestimate human potential. Teamwork is very powerful and while you are distracting yourselves with shit thats low priority, larger evils go unchallenged. Don’t give me that bullshit.

      You basically want easy fun shit to do with your time while you pat yourselves on the back for doing good deeds, meanwhile real evil flourishes.

      Exercise your empathy and dial it up to the point where the pain of the world actually matters to you.


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