An Angry World

What do the Oscars 2022 show in LA and the launch of the Swatch X Omega Bioceramic MoonSwatch here have in common? Unbridled rage

By Shikong Wuzhu

People get mad easily these days. And in the past weekend, I saw two examples of this anger that was hard to process. One became an open-palm smack “heard around the world”; the other, a dare—to get the police to shoot in the middle of a riled up crowd. People do get angry, of course, but to the point of expressing that ire so harshly, and violently? Blame it on the pandemic (right?), as many do. People are just fed-up and at the slightest provocation, become a ticking bomb (admittedly, a bad rhetoric, considering who the angriest man is right now! That initiator of open conflict). From bilious online social discourse (Twitter is a difficult—even unbearable—place to be when controversies break out) to hawker-centre quarrels, even between old men. The display of rage won’t let up.

Will Smith, as you know by now, showed his temper at the 94th Academy Awards. At that moment on stage, watched by millions worldwide, he, too, billed Hollywood as the ’hood. Could this be the equivalent of a drive-by shooting, although not premeditated, and in a swankier setting? Black presence must be palpable in today’s American culture and on stage. Take-things-into-your-own-hand impulse too. At the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night (or Monday morning, our time), restraint did not accompany Mr Smith into the auditorium; recklessness, selfishness, aggressiveness—all of them did, and they were applauded. I still can’t make out what the takeaway was when a man received a standing ovation shortly after he clearly assaulted another.

The Slap. Photo: Reuters/The Washington Post

It was, and still is, hard for many people to call the violence just that. Many tried to come up with all sorts of excuse for him, including the good ’ol standby, impaired mental state. Or, the lame “he was beside himself”. No one would plainly say he blew up. It is hard to consider the Men in Black actor wrong because, as one editorial in The Guardian suggested, the “white outrage about Will Smith’s slap is rooted in anti-Blackness”. If condemning violence is “anti-Blackness”, is the believer of that equation admitting that violence is part of Blackness? I am not white. Does that make my disapproval of the Slap stinkingly “rooted in anti-Blackness” too, like those angmos’, except the ones who stood up to clap? I would have denounce the smack if it was given by one White guy to another. Would that make my Asian outrage rooted in anti-Whiteness? More so since they were once colonisers?

There was also the enthusiastic lauding of him protecting his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. Sure, a husband does that, but it’s disturbing to think that it’s alright for him to hit a man to “defend her honour”, as supporters of the Smiths have said. Was this in America or Pakistan? “I wish I had a man protecting me like that,” said actress Tiffany Haddish to the media after the show. Also outside the Dolby Theatre, transgender star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez opined, “When you speak about somebody’s wife, you can’t really help that.” Unable to act differently then? Really? Or, has slapping these days become the cruel kindness to right wrongs, to express social justice, to protect loved ones?” Some Netizens wondered what Mr Smith was teaching kids with his school-yard action. Perhaps that was precisely what he wanted his own children to learn. As his son, fashion darling Jaden Smith, later wrote on Twitter, “And that’s how we do it”.

The Challenge: man, with mask down, dared the police to shoot him. Screen grab: TikTok

Anger percolated here too, just a day before the Will Smith rage. At the now-infamous launch of the Swatch X Omega Bioceramic MoonSwatch at ION Orchard (and just the same everywhere in the world), a man, so incensed by purportedly being separated from his friends when the police came to restore order in the increasingly overcrowded space, he dared the men in blue to shoot him. Like so many of you, I saw that TikTok video. The outburst was so outrageous that, after hearing of it, law and home affairs minister K Shanmugam posted on Facebook, “It’s not life and death.” Mr Shanmugam was not wrong, but there was no life or death in that episode, just a want. And what the guy wanted was an affordable watch that is modelled after one that is not. And he has to get it. The police be damned.

Some Netizens sympathised with the fellow as he was upset because he was kept apart from his chums. Or, as the man said, they were “cut out”. So if you and your pals were, for some reason (packed platform, for example?), separated by closing MRT train doors, do you kick the doors down? Or jump onto the track and challenge the driver (assuming, the trains were still manned) to run you over? Fashion has become so democratised and so sharply priced that everyone wants a piece of it, no matter what, no matter if tempers need to flare. I don’t know. Are we really so easily provoked these days? Have we become so emotionally fragile that we can just hit someone for offense taken and indignation felt? And fume at the police for doing their job? Is it only through anger that we can get even or what we desperately want? Anger begets anger, and the world will only get angrier.

Illustration: Just So