Wolcott quotes Katha Pollitt on what I am calling the New Angst -- that Chicken Little feeling that the World of Tomorrow just isn't working out; that looking-over-the-shoulder belief that the centre isn't holding; that fearful philosophy that every day in every way things are getting just a tiny bit worse. Pollitt writes:
...I know what you're thinking: I must be depressed or disappointed or just a curmudgeon, a crab, one of those middle-aged purists who stopped listening to music when the Beatles broke up.. . .The model for our generation is Oscar Leroy, and our motto is "You Jackass!"
Still, I wasn't always like this. For a long time I thought things were getting better--uglier, yes, but more just and equal. I thought that little by little people were becoming less cruel, less stupid, less ignorant, less unfair. And they are, too--think of how much less racist white people are, how far women have come. And what about gay marriage? Ten years ago nobody'd heard of it and now half the country has already moved on to gay divorce. And yet, you don't hear people looking forward to the future in the rapturous way they did back when they believed in some big triumphant idea like science or reason or socialism or art, or even a small, cozy hope like everyone having a place to live and nobody having to eat cat food. People might be excited about their own personal future... But when they think about the future in general, they're scared.. . .
It's not as if I like being like this. People who despair after a certain age are just depressing. We don't have the looks for it, and besides, we make others uncomfortable: what if we're on to something. Sure, we're boring, always rambling on about how much better everything was in our childhoods, when there was snow, but we might just be right. Nobody wants to believe that. Once you get over your youthful intensities you're supposed to look on the bright side, like parents. You're supposed to say, There, there.