There is an insidious trend of behaviour that is creeping on to our public life, and this is evidently so on our media platforms today. It has become increasingly common to see people with authority and those people in the public eye, displaying anger when critical or controversial issues are discussed in the mainstream media. There is no question that our country is desperately trying to keep up with modern trends. With the advent of social media, there is a lot of “self-styled journalists” with corresponding media outlets mushrooming around the country. Our television stations are taking root, making the visual experience all the more interesting. With a lot of self-proclaimed journalists these days, it is easy to see why news has become a rolling staple diet.
With media houses like African Young Voices (AYV) setting the pace, it is heart-warming to witness a new genre in our communication cycles. It is now a regular spectacle to see members of the public and people in authority or public roles being interviewed on topical issues of the day. This can only be good for the dissemination of information, not only for government policies but also for the day to day events and issues that impact on our lives. As a result of this new trend, it is practically unavoidable that certain topics, issues and opinions would carry their inherent controversies and differences in opinions. This is more so when such topics take a political colouration, against the backdrop of our current political climate. The Commission of Inquiry (COI) has given us, one of the most nationally contentious issues of our time, and the use of mainstream media outlets has contributed in equal measure to help disseminate information, rightly or wrongly; irrespective of the variances in opinions.
But what is becoming increasingly troubling is the performance of those taking part I these discussions. This is especially so with the television side of the media. Some of the people participating in some of these discussions have been known to do so in an angry manner. We are seeing respectable people losing their temper and their cool, when discussing controversial or sensitive issues. Unfortunately, they become so angry that it is visible to even the blind. The fact that these individuals do so in plain sight makes it troubling. But why are our politicians and people in authority so angry? Is Sierra Leone a country of angry people? As a nation, are we becoming less tolerant of alternative opinions? Why are we so desperate to convey our anger and temper, so blatantly to the eyes of the world’s watching community?
During one of the monthly national cleaning exercises, we saw a video clip on social media that involved the Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr and Mr Philip Tondoneh, Minister of Local government and Rural Development, engaged in a bitter argument. The sight of 2 public officials having a slanging match was just disappointing, and this was especially so for Mr Tondoneh. This is not about who was right or wrong about their points of view. The whole spectacle was just disgraceful. We do understand the conscious drive to clean our environs, and some people will interpret the behaviour of Mr Tondoneh as one borne of “passion”. It is all well and good to be passionate about something. But there is a fine line between passion and anger, and these cannot be misconstrued. In spite of any professed passion or otherwise, Mr Tondoneh’s behaviour in the clip was not befitting of his position in our society. To her credit, the Mayor made her point, stood her ground, but more importantly remained CALM throughout. That is what you call emotional intelligence. That was a good example of EMOTIONAL REGULATION.
We recently saw another example of how people tend to lose control of their emotions during the opening of the COI. The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Dr. Pricilla Schwartz was making the case for the government. I am sure that her performance left a lot to be desired. Watching the clip, you could feel her “passion”. But her performance came across as someone who was angry. We do know that we are all human and as such, have feelings which can impact on our thoughts and behaviours. However, the expectation is that people in such positions should be emotionally intelligent enough to keep such emotions in check or under control. With situations were such emotions are displayed in public view, the downside is that people remember these events for the performance rather than the subject matter or content of the issue. What many took away from the Attorney General’s presentation was the exhibit of anger. Some apologists will say that she was passionate. I agree, but if that was passion, it was marinated with a significant dose of anger.
I have been following AYV TV recently and noticed the amount or prevalence of anger being displayed on the screens by many participants. In fairness to the broadcasters, they try and get parties from both sides and sometimes all sides to present a balanced programme. As expected, the views can be opposite and contrasting. But sadly, some of those participants are a bad example to the watching public. The negative effect of that could be more so on our young viewers, who unconsciously see these people as role models. Considering the acronym AYV, the irony could not be more ironic. What are these people teaching our young viewers when they can so blatantly express their views with such temper? But again, questions should be asked about the role of these moderators or interviewers on the programmes. You wonder why they sit there and allow these people to perpetuate anger on our screens. Such spectacles could only sow the seeds of violence; for young viewers will only grow to accept violence as trendy.
We tend to forget that when we lose our temper, we lose our worth; and that bad temper or anger can be interpreted as a sign of inferiority. “Whoever is able to anger you is able to control you. The moment you lose your temper, you lose. There is a difference between passion and temper. No one is preaching that we cannot show our emotions; we are human. This is about the ability to regulate those emotions at all times. There is no doubt that it can be difficult at times and in certain situations. But that is the expectation; that holding such positions, one should to be able to regulate those emotions. A major key to leadership is self-control. But by displaying such fits of anger, we are setting bad examples for our impressionable youth. We need to remember that any time we speak when angry; we make the best speech we will ever regret.
People should not trust their tongue when their heart is bitter. There are a lot of wise sayings about anger. Here is a sample for your reading pleasure, before you take the couch at AYV TV or SLBC next time:
- Control your ANGER. It’s only one letter from D-ANGER.
- Make your anger so expensive that no one can afford it.
- Losing your temper does not show you are strong, but how little control you have over your own instincts.
- Nobody makes you angry; you decide to make anger your response.
- Next time, don’t lose your temper. You only have one.
So the next time you feel like losing your temper, remember this; don’t lose your temper, nobody wants it.
Don’t forget to turn the lights out before you leave the room.