Change: “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.”

UPDATE: This post was originally written by a different author almost 10 years ago, but today, the quote feels more timely than ever. Words fail to express the disgust and anger I feel over the brutal killing of George Floyd by 4 police officers on Monday evening in Minneapolis.

With this post seeing an increase in visits, I wanted to use this space to quickly connect to a few organizations doing good work to support the BIPOC communities here in the Twin Cities right now, and share some general learning resources. Let’s pay attention…

If you know of other helpful links or organizations, please feel free to email or add them in the comments and I’ll update the list.

Article originally posted June 29, 2010

Having grown up in a tiny Ohio town, I am truly infinitely entertained by the people I meet and interact with on a daily level where I live now (Berkely, CA).

Every day, I see at least ten bumper stickers with the phrase, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” (Now, if you know Berkeley, then you know that these are often sandwhiched in between a “Coexist”, a “Yes we can!” a Darwin-ed Jesus fish, a “My Labrador is smarter than your honors student.” etc. so I never really paid more attention to one than the other.)

Yesterday the “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” really spoke to me, though, as I was fresh off the heels of a conversation with a friend where I was candidly talking about everything I was angry about. I was angry about the Gulf Spill, I hated the BP execs, I an mad about the immigration laws that I see destroy families of model (not-)citizens of this country, I was angry about people not recycling their bottles and thus forcing me dig them out of the trash and put them in my purse to recycle at home, I was angry about Haiti not being like it was a year ago today. I was just ANGRY.

And she said “You can’t let this stuff eat you alive. You need to be happy again. You can’t be so filled with rage and anger anymore.” And I was sort of befuddled to come up with an answer other than “You’re right. You’re right.” But I realized when I saw the bumper sticker that that was my answer, thats how I feel about the whole thing. I was angry, sad, etc. and, while justified, what does it accomplish?

There is so much ugly in the world and it can consume you if you let it. But…. that helps no one, when you are crippled with grief and sadness for all the tragedy.

And I, personally, think that that feeling of helplessness is what often intimidates people out of adjusting their lifestyle to help others.

Why should I go walk dogs at the humane society when there will still be thousands of abused and neglected animals in the world? I can do nothing. Why should I bring my own bag to the store when no one else ever does? Why should I ride my bike and ride the bus when all it means is that I smell worse and am sweatier than all my coworkers or classmates? Why should I give $20 to Oxfam when that probably doesn’t pay for one second of construction in Haiti?

But the thing is, is that everything adds up. Every single act of good you do for anything, anyone, ever really makes a difference! Getting angry and defeated does nothing for anyone.

I will keep my anger, but try each day to do a better job of channeling it into some big moves for our neat little company.

So, today, go do something good or focused toward some change. Anything! Feel free to comment or e-mail to tell us about it.

Maybe we need a b&b bumper sticker that says “If you’re not angry, then you’re probably too busy trying to fix the world to dwell on the ugly.” Or…. something like that…


team barley and birch
team barley and birch

This post is from the barley & birch archives


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  1. Love it. And couldn’t be more timely for me. It is hard to care so much about so many things, but would it be better if we didn’t? We need more people to care and more people to do.

    I heard Maya Angelou speak a while ago (and had to blog about it). That was inspiring in a time when it can be easy to get weary of being angry.

    Never give up and we CAN effect change. But don’t forget all the wonderful things in life along the way…

  2. I like the “If you’re not angry…” quote, and I try and avoid the feeling of hopelessness by balancing it with the quote; “Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something.” – Earl Nightengale

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