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Feeling angry? This may be a good start for 2014

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I was in London for Christmas, visiting family and friends in the northern hemisphere’s deep mid-winter. Winds and storms thrashed and darkness closed each day at four. Best not mention the cricket.

But it’s not the cricket or the weather that is making Brits angry.

Instead, according to a Guardian/Institute of Commercial Management poll of over 2000 people (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/26/fury-mps-not-voting-poll) conducted a week before Christmas and published on December 27, it is politics and politicians.

Well, that’s not quite right. There may be many other things making Brits cross.

However, the poll concentrated on politics, asking respondents for “the single word that best described how or what you instinctively feel about politics and politicians”. 

Nearly half answered “angry”, and a quarter said “bored’. Fewer than 20 per cent felt “respectful” or “inspired” (2 per cent). 

Younger respondents were as likely to feel bored as angry, and the voting rate among them was almost half that of the over-65s at the last election. Two-thirds were put off voting because they felt politicians did not keep their promises, while half thought they were on the take. Underlining the depth of disillusion, a quarter each felt “the parties were much the same” and “neither takes any notice of my views”.

Encouragingly, nearly 90 per cent of respondents still felt that government mattered, and that the decisions made in parliament were important. Most talked about politics once a week.

So, as the Guardian argues, it’s better to be angry about something important than to be indifferent – the attitude that is more common among the younger respondents.  Anger is not restricted to Britain.

In the 7 December issue of the Economist, Lexington, the newspaper’s US correspondent, analysed why poll after poll revealed Americans were experiencing “crises of trust”. 

Whether as an aspect or a consequence of this angry feeling, Lexington sees the corrosion of trust as critical.

Trust, which was critical to “civic activity and a sense of community among neighbours” after the Second World War, has been declining since, and “anti-government cynicism is feeding on gulfs in society…The country faces a crisis of mutual resentment, masquerading as a general collapse in national morale.”

Anger about Obamacare represents a “collapse in support among conservatives for government safety nets.”

Australia, like the UK and the US, has not enjoyed high levels of democratic fitness in recent years.

And this has profound effects on the values of compassion, equity and concern that have served Australia’s health care system over decades.

There has been a corrosive silence and lack of leadership on these important matters.

Instead, we hear the babble of division, nay-saying and sledging in our parliaments.  Misplaced anger, cynicism and wedge politics damage democratic fitness and the health of the nation. 

So! If you are starting 2014 feeling angry, good!

But be specific, be diagnostic, and be active.

Search out what it is that is making you angry. Be sure it is not a piece of political ideological junk unworthy of your energy and anger.

Having clarified your concern, act. There is a greater health hazard, not just to you but to the nation, than obesity from your being a couch potato.

As our Chinese friends will soon celebrate, 2014 is the year of the horse. Time to get on ours!