Sunday, March 26, 2006

The New World Disorder

The much-heralded individualist spirit of American society relies on nurturing a fear of other people.
Kevin Carollo

Panic is our national pastime. In February 2003, Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon gave a lecture about how childhood adventuring has been radically curtailed by the lack of "wilderness" to explore. People feel uncomfortable leaving their children alone to explore their surroundings. Chabon spoke of his daughter learning to ride a bicycle, followed by his realization that there's no place he feels comfortable having her ride it. In the course of one generation, the wilderness of childhood has been planned, mapped, and regulated by the fears of adults. Paul Feig's memoir, Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence, describes how high school in America is defined by the possibility of panic attacks lurking around every corner. Much of life centers on making sure we avoid being attacked. The collective dimensions of panic disorder, an illness generally treated on an individual basis, is the subject of this essay. Americans are strangely united by their isolation from one another.


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