The hard-boiled editor says, “Give me 800 words on why the hell is everyone so mad about everything all the time! And get it in early Monday. There’s a deadline.” Well, it is a quiet time of year in my life with almost nothing going on other than watching the sunbeams slowly cross my office floor, so I say, “Sure, chief.” I start banging away and the first thought I have is the dead certainty that I’m going to tick people off.

We live in the days of outrage. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as pissed off as the next woman or guy. I am sure there must be people out there who have not been on a slow or high boil for what seems like decades but I just don’t run into them much and I sure do not hear from them.

When did it start? It wasn’t always this way. Even when we were mad about something just a short amount of years ago we could still compartmentalize it and forget we were mad for a while. Not anymore. All the walls have come down. There are no more “compartments.” It’s like everything was put into a giant dryer and set on tumble. And it’s a very, very angry dryer.

In the old days people got mad but it didn’t last. Pearl Harbor made Americans truly angry. But only a few years later they were happily buying stuff made in Japan. It’s different now. People seem equally angry about climate change as they are about someone taking their parking place. These days people are mad and they’ve got it at 11 all the time. You never know when it’s going to pop up. It’s not mission creep, it’s more like anger creep, and that anger you have about climate change is easily accessed and applied to the person eating popcorn too loudly.

The dawn of serial anger really seemed to take on a fire of its own when talk radio came to town. Then we added cable news talking-head networks with 24/7 chatter and real lines were drawn. Right about the same time, along came the internet and if anything has done more to make people mad and keep them that way I’d appreciate hearing about it. The internet is almost like a surgical-strike biological weapon diabolically designed to home in on a laser to that sweet micro spot where you can be poked to erupt like a volcano. Clickbait is real.

The beauty and terrible nature of the internet and social media is that it can simultaneously deliver more information on any subject faster than ever before imagined and at the same time turn people into keyboard warriors with no interest in taking prisoners. It doesn’t help that often the information is shaded, incorrect, or purposefully inflammatory. It’s a mean world after all. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be mad. I literally tingle with anger all day long. And I’m not the only one.

Now with the help of a few keystrokes and a lot of time on your hands you suddenly have a dozen angry people. You’re not just mad, you’re building community. Back in the day, you’d be a lonely angry soul. But those days are over. Anger loves company as long as everyone agrees, and with the interweb you’re sure to have plenty of “friends.” Or what appears to be a lot. It can also just be 13 angry people yelling loudly into a megaphone, getting way more air time than they or their cause deserve.

Civilization has a thin coating of decency that keeps us interacting with manners, respecting election outcomes, and waving people to go ahead and go first. Scrub that scrim and I’m sorry to say you’ll find that people at their basest are murderous and bloodthirsty. Yes; here in the USA we’ve had a pretty good run lately of not going at each other in a wholesale manner with sharp objects and burning our neighbors out, but that can be counted in decades.

Not all that great a run. And if you look around the planet, there’s no immunity to mass violence anywhere. The point is that we humans have a baseline of anger, suspicion, envy, and a potential for violence. It’s where we came from and where we are still. Luckily we kind of have it under control. But that’s the ground under our feet. We start with that poison in our DNA. Fast-forward to today and anger has been incorporated into our ethno-national-political current tribalism. The anti-salmon farm people are angry at the pro-salmon farm people. And the reverse is equally true. The Trump lovers are really mad at the deep state, fake news, Hillary, and the “war on Christmas.” Bag lovers are angry that “people” banned the bag. Some Italians are mad that there are fewer and fewer Columbus Days. Poliquin supporters think they were robbed. And so it goes.

Part of the current sense of anger is a large increase in despair and frustration. By everyone. No matter whom you talk to, whatever the issue, no matter what side you are on in any given issue, people feel like things are getting worse and not better. Perhaps how complicated everything is just adds to our funk. When I was born in 1950 there were 2.6 billion people. Today there are over 7.3 billion of us. By 2050 it is expected there will be 10 billion people. With more people everything gets more complicated and has a greater impact. And the impact matters. Part of what drives us is the stakes are so high.

When people see something they feel they can actually do something about — join the women’s march, write letters, join a Facebook group, protest, and boycott, give money to a candidate, work for a party, cause, or personality — they’re primed to go. And away we all go. The work goes on, the struggle goes on, people are angry about everything all the time. It’s not new and it’s not going anywhere. It’s like the weather. It just is. The challenge is how to live well, enjoy life, and not become damaged goods while standing up for what matters. Practice persistence, tenacity, endurance, and patience. Life is short. Do the best you can with what you have where you are. Sometimes take your lumps. That’s my guiding star and how I plan to have a happy New Year without letting anger get the best of the day.

Longtime Belfast resident Mike Hurley is a city councilor and former mayor.