An Age of Anxiety

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Every evening I watch the evening news. News may not be exactly the right word. The reports are a combination of speculation about what is about to happen—a presidential speech, a new pope, the Oscars—and spokespeople touting one point of view or another on the issue of the day. Which today is sequestration, or rather “what Washington refers to a sequestration,” as the media insists on calling it, despite the fact that by now it is a term surely familiar to all. But perhaps the most common “news” story is the revelation of a new topic of concern: a previously ignored disease, an unnoticed social condition, an overlooked environmental effect, a looming problem. Journalistic careers are made by discovering the next new trouble: on-line privacy,  bullying, school soccer injuries, cheating on school tests, whatever. Since the evening news insists on being upbeat–at least on PBS– however dire the problem, it can always be fixed, we are told by the earnest experts. Just once, it would be refreshing to hear that a problem was insoluble. “Sorry, nothing can be done about it. It’s just human nature. We’ll have to learn to live with it.”

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