Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


William Fisher: The Age Of Anxiety Redux

The Age Of Anxiety Redux

By William Fisher
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 17 March 2006

Airplanes crashing into buildings. Daily body counts from Iraq and Afghanistan. Hospitals filled with hideously mutilated young service men and women. Prisoners being tortured and abused. People being beheaded. Religious leaders urging us to "take out" heads of state. Katrina survivors stranded on rooftops while FEMA fiddles. Tsunami victims stranded nowhere -- just gone.

These are only a few of the kinds of grisly images bombarding the American people every day.

To which we can add the 24/7 menu of relentless television alarums: 90-mile-an-hour car chases, online child pornographers getting busted, corporate executives and congressmen being frog-walked to the slammer in handcuffs, judges receiving death threats, murdered children found in shallow graves, millions dead and displaced in Darfur, children dying from HIV-AIDS and many totally curable diseases, ports being turned over to 'Muslim terrorists', phone calls and emails being intercepted, and on and on and on.

And, as a not-so-delicate counterpoint to this scary dirge, the secretary of Health and Human Service tells us to buy extra cans of tunafish and powdered milk to put under our beds to ward off an avian flu pandemic, and the president exhorts us yet again to "stay the course", go about our business as usual, but be sure to pay attention to the brainless haute couture color codes intended to tell us how scared we should be on any given day.

There is an old axiom in the news business: "If it bleeds, it leads." So the blood and gore is nothing new. What's new is its sheer volume and pervasiveness. And if anyone still believes it's not having a profound and profoundly negative effect on the lives of ordinary Americans, we ought to ask them what they've been smoking.

This is not pop-psych 101. This is real. We are living though an age of high anxiety (for which the government's favorite cliché is "the post-9/11 environment") that is likely to have a very long-lasting effect on the American psyche.

One of the public's responses to that post 9/11 environment is popping pills. Since that dreadful day, there has been a rapid and dramatic increase in sales of anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and sleep aid drugs, according to one Atlanta-based health information service provider, NDC Health, which tracks retail pharmaceutical sales.

New prescriptions for sleep aid rose 27.5%. Anti-anxiety drug prescriptions are up 25% and anti-depressants up 17%. New prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants are up 13%, while sleep aid prescriptions are up 8%. Nationwide, anti-anxiety prescriptions are up 8.6%, anti-depressants up 2.6%, and sleep aids up 7.5%.

Therapists are reporting agitation, sleeplessness, survivor guilt and depression -- and not just among those directly affected by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A New York psychiatrist says her practice increased by 25% since September 11 and that half of those patients had no direct connection to the attacks. "These people feel they have no control over their lives," she said. Another shrink reports that his practice increased by 50% since the attacks and that he didn't expect it to fall off anytime soon.

But many other medical authorities report that the sorry state of the nation's mental health is deteriorating for reasons that reach far beyond 9/11. And far beyond World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In large and small, urban and rural communities in places like Kansas and Arkansas and Maine, citizens find themselves trying to live "old normal" lives but are unable to find respite from the low-level but persistent environment of fear, anxiety, and conflict that has come to be known as the 'new normal'.

We all recall Karl Rove's cynical observation that 9/11 would be a boffo campaign issue in the 2004 election. And it was. Now, equally cynical politicians from both sides of the aisle are using and will continue to use the "new normal" to divide us. Nation against nation. Left against right. Interest group against interest group. Church against State. Religion against religion. Immigrants against citizens.

When President Bush was elected (sic) in 2000, he promised to unite us through "compassionate conservatism". Since when he has worked tirelessly to unite only his base. The result has been what John Edwards calls the "Two Americas".

Many Americans are trying to cope by popping more pills.

But some of us continue to harbor some faint hope that by 2006 or 2008, the loyal opposition will come together with some manifesto that goes beyond "anyone but Bush".

If they fail, we will all continue to live in fear. And pop more pills.

Published with the permission of


Please click on the link below.


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news