Saturday, 5 June 2010

Lighting the touch-paper

OK, I admit it. I suffer from road rage. 90 percent of the time my temperament is about as mild as a lukewarm cup of herbal tea, but stick me behind the wheel and in a matter of minutes I'm swearing like a Tourettes sufferer being audited by the Inland Revenue.

I've often argued that it's cathartic to have the occasional outburst (it's an argument that usually falls on deaf ears) - however, Giles Coren has written an article for the Daily Mail making the exact same case. Apparently, scientists at the University of Valencia have found that the occasional outburst can increase blood flow to the pleasure-points in the brain.

This must come as a great relief to readers of the Daily Mail, since the paper goes out of its way to trigger their anger receptors as often as it can. Everything about the paper, from its editorial style to its typeface, seems expressly designed to needle and agitate, leaving its loyal readers in a constant quivering state of annoyance - ready to blow at the merest infraction.

Coren, however, attempts to distance himself from that mindset, claiming that he's been mischaracterised as Mr Angry: "Not that I’m an angry person myself, I should say. I am a man of great phlegm and restraint. Until provoked. When goaded, I will admit, I can fly off the handle ever so slightly. But not over anything minor. It takes something big."

I'm not sure how this correlates with his 1000-word rant to the sub-editors at the Times who foolishly tinkered with one of his articles. Although only one word had been changed, Coren raved on as though someone had set fire to his house, only for the fire service to then have to smash his car windows to reach the hydrant.

He also got into trouble earlier this year when he tweeted that his neighbour's 12-year old son was annoying him by playing his drums incessantly. Rather than phone the council to complain to the noise pollution team, Coren theorised about raping, killing and burning the boy. Which is surely a perfectly reasonably response.

It's Coren's belief that most of what's wrong with 'Broken Britain' can be directly attributed to our attempts to be more civilised and empathetic with one another, leaving us mired in a "world of cowering, timorous individuals mired in a culture of greed, terror and dismal dead-end jobs, call-centres, wars, stupid blasted iPads for dopey morons to play rape-and-murder video games on the way to work, and pointless anger-bleeding-management courses".

That's the problem with anger - when the red mist descends, logic and reason fly out of the window. As a result, Coren's article leaps from one mindlessly aggressive attack to the next, without a trace of cohesion or relevance. He takes pot-shots at 'paella-munching boffins', 'so-called kebab shops' and 'clipboard bashers' amongst others, without ever managing to connect any of the dots.

Anger is good, he says. Anger is what makes us human, and helped overthrow the great evils of modern civilisation - Apartheid, Communism and the Poll Tax. And you'd better believe that those other blights on modern life will follow, just as soon as we all connect with our inner Hulk. Giles' targets? The hunting ban, bendy buses and one-way traffic systems. Well, he is writing for the Mail after all.

Or maybe he forgot where the article was going? Because after raving about the fact that scientists can't agree on whether anger is healthy or harmful, a Mail sub-editor has helpfully added links to two other stories on the paper's website. Their headlines? "It's official: Anger really CAN kill you" and "Getting angry is good for your health".

Honestly, it's enough to make you lose your rag all over again.

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