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Reasons to be fearful
January 4, 2009 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Have we ever been more emotionally volatile, more in thrall to our sensations than now? We had become used to viewing all our neuroses as crises; now a genuine crisis was upon us, it was a cataclysm. Atheist or believer, we have in the last decade been primed for an end-time of sorts, with a stock of latent fears ready and waiting. Suddenly, all of those fears had an outlet.
Tim Adams contemplates the new Age of Anxiety.
posted by Sonny Jim (28 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't want to nitpick, because I'm sure it's a very interesting and informative article, and this is nothing against you in particular, Sonny Jim, but has anyone counted how many articles from the Guardian have been FPPed in the last few weeks? It feels like a lot.
posted by Caduceus at 3:33 PM on January 4, 2009


I thought we were in the Post-ironic Age.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:42 PM on January 4, 2009


I thought we were in the Post-ironic Age.

Anxious about labels, are we? ;)
Shit, now I've got emoticon anxiety.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:04 PM on January 4, 2009


So some douchebag used his house as an ATM can't do it anymore and suddenly we're in a "new Age of Anxiety"?
posted by delmoi at 4:18 PM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm still anxious about the old Age of Anxiety.
posted by MarshallPoe at 4:29 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Meh
posted by pointilist at 4:32 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Adams omits any mention of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. Seems peculiar since all the other usual suspects are noted.

And I thought we were living in the Post-post-Ironic Age, but I am sleep-deprived having awakened at 4:30 a.m. worrying about, well, you know, everything but whether my dogs still snore.
posted by emhutchinson at 4:35 PM on January 4, 2009


but has anyone counted how many articles from the Guardian have been FPPed in the last few weeks? It feels like a lot.

I do see a Guardian article but I see many more NYT ones. In fact, given the language limitation on Mefi and the fact that these are probably the two best newspapers written in english, it's only natural.

(wishes for El Pais to have an english version so the rest of the world can enjoy Babelia and the Sunday columnists)
posted by lucia__is__dada at 4:37 PM on January 4, 2009


So some douchebag used his house as an ATM can't do it anymore and suddenly we're in a "new Age of Anxiety"?
The UK press are full of these media-luvvie-finally-gets-merest-whiff-of-how-other-half-lives-and-quivers-in-fear pieces recently. Toss-up whether this is more annoying or their smug triumphalism in the boom years.
Of course the real ages of anxiety in Europe were in the crisis-ridden early-mid 17th century, when life was as tenuous, disease-prone and war-torn as ever as old religious certainties began to break down, if I'm not mangling my schoolboy history too much.
posted by Abiezer at 4:38 PM on January 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Uh..we used to burn or drown people for being "witches" 300 years ago, and we're more hysterical NOW?
posted by horsemuth at 4:58 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


What silliness and melodrama.

The author would be well advised to read Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises. Financial crashes are pretty much a normal part of the economic cycle.

Financial meltdowns happen every 5-10 years (or more often). The odd thing is that in much of the West 1992-2008 didn't have a big crash. Mind you, in that time there was the Tequila Crisis, the Asian Financial Crisis, Long Term Capital Management's problems, Enron and the Dot com bubble burst.

The current downturn will probably wind up being far more like the oil shock and recessions of the 1970s than the 1920s. The comparison with the 1920s is probably used because it makes politicians feel more important and it helps to sell newspapers.

I'll take today anytime over the mid-1970s, when communism was still around and vibrant, a nuclear war was a higher possibility and the economy was tanking.
posted by sien at 5:10 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


And I thought we were living in the Post-post-Ironic Age,

Actually, we're living in the Post-Prefix Age. I checked.
posted by jonmc at 5:16 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


As in Âge de Après préfixe jon?
posted by porpoise at 5:55 PM on January 4, 2009


Article wasn't very interesting (I'm with delmoi), but the pun in the title is clever and worth the post alone.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:56 PM on January 4, 2009


si, papi, si.
posted by jonmc at 6:03 PM on January 4, 2009


All the old people keep promising the world is going to fall apart, but I'm starting to think I'll have to make it happen myself. Sheesh.
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:07 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh It's always the end of everything all the time.

The scene isn't what it used to be. The scene is never what it used to be.
posted by The Whelk at 6:18 PM on January 4, 2009


marsopa, not papa

Citizen Premier - are those 12 gauge bucks burning a hole in your go-bag, too? Me, I'm itchin' to trade my skills at making antibiotics from dirt for security and shelter.
posted by porpoise at 6:20 PM on January 4, 2009


I'm tempted to agree with delmoi. Inability to renovate your home doesn't constitute the kind of fear that even Depression-era Americans on the breadline experienced. And that fear made them resolute, determined and grateful - not whiny.

Does anybody else think this would have been a lot better with some pop psychology attached?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:39 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have we ever been more emotionally volatile, more in thrall to our sensations than now?

Hardly. These "zeitgeist" pieces are ubiquitous. One cannot speak of a "we." Usually the "we" described consists of upper middleclass whites. Suddenly their individual worlds are threatened in ways that others' lives are usually under threat.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:54 PM on January 4, 2009


so basically the author's thesis is that anxiety makes you babble a lot

yep
posted by pyramid termite at 7:18 PM on January 4, 2009


"...and the welfare state made provision for panic attacks."

Jesus, the UK really is like another planet. If you get panic attacks in the US, you suck it up like the rest of us, dammit!
posted by OverlappingElvis at 10:33 PM on January 4, 2009


The one friend I have who gets panic attacks gets a trip to the hospital in a nice ambulance, and a long weekend on the happy pills. He also has good medical insurance, and I believe this is one of the best uses you can put your insurance to.

Regarding the article, meh, this is the NEW age of anxiety, as opposed to the OLD age of anxiety, and the ORIGINAL age of anxiety, which was a remake of other ages of anxiety like the famous FUCK, EVERYONE IS DYING OF THE PLAGUE age of anxiety, or the DAMN, THE FUCKING CONQUISTADORE ARE KILLING EVERYONE AND DESTROYING OR WHOLE CIVILIZATION age of anxiety, for example. And like all recent remakes, it is lame compared to the originals. Oh, wait, the age of anxiety started after WW2, before that came the ages of terror and dread.

The only part I found really interesting is the mention of the book where a bunch of professional political and economic advisors/experts were asked to predict the answers to a set of specific questions in their areas of expertise, and they did worse than random. Good thing this article was not written by an expert in anything, we can trust it.
posted by dirty lies at 11:02 PM on January 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought this Peter Preston editorial The Gloom Boom was interesting too.
Some of us remember recessions past, and how (twice at least) the world resumed turning soon afterwards. We recall how unpleasant they were. But we can't quite remember such doleful delight over our shared descent into plight, the chorus of utter despair that (traced back to root motivations) was designed to bring sympathy, respect, cash hand-outs and political advantage in bountiful measure.
I think it's partly that this is the first blog-era recession. News is supposed to be emotional and opinionated now. So faced with an event whose historical magnitude could even exceed that of Britney Spears cutting her hair off, what is there to do but descend into utter panic and despair?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:35 PM on January 4, 2009


I think that's an astute point, TheophileEscargot. And it partially explains the odd mixture of good sense and jaw-dropping naïvete that constitutes Adams' article. Here's an intelligent and educated observer stating what should have been very, very obvious with the profound seriousness of someone who's only just getting it. For me, it's emblematic of the near-total detachment of much of the commentariat from reality and their absorption instead in some bizarre, plastic, medialand dreamscape that no-one really cared about anyway. And when they awake, however incompletely, all they can find to replace it is this black void of fear. It's like they feel dead.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:18 AM on January 5, 2009


I'll take today anytime over the mid-1970s, when communism was still around and vibrant, a nuclear war was a higher possibility and the economy was tanking.

Darned vibrant Communism.

Much better now with a rampant free market, Terrorists, Nuclear Bombs, Global Warming (thanks in part to our rampant free market) and the economy tanking.

Bring back a bit of vibrancy I say.
posted by twistedonion at 6:03 AM on January 5, 2009


I think it's more like the end of the Age of the False Sense of Security.
posted by Eideteker at 4:22 PM on January 5, 2009


Me, I'm itchin' to trade my skills at making antibiotics from dirt for security and shelter.

Actually, I was just thinking of learning the Violin.
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:15 PM on January 6, 2009


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