Speaking only about the U.S., I think the culture of fear has only taken hold in the media and elected officials... and even then only at the federal level.
@Paul Crowley, @bobechs, ???? are you implying that political leanings affect the credibility of ideas and discourse on other topics? Am I stupid to not see anything in those Wikipedia refs to invalidate the exposition in that essay Bruce cited. Or maybe I'm naive in expecting ideas and essays to stand or fall on their merits, not on the political associations of the author?
But if in Noble Minds some Dregs remain,
Not yet purg'd off, of Spleen and sow'r Disdain,
Discharge that Rage on more Provoking Crimes,
Nor fear a Dearth in these Flagitious Times.
No Pardon vile Obscenity should find,
Tho' Wit and Art conspire to move your Mind;
But Dulness with Obscenity must prove
As Shameful sure as Importance in Love.
In the fat Age of Pleasure, Wealth, and Ease,
Sprung the rank Weed, and thriv'd with large Increase;
When Love was all an easie Monarch's Care;
Seldom at Council, never in a War:
Jilts rul'd the State, and Statesmen Farces writ;
Nay Wits had Pensions, and young Lords had Wit:
The Fair sate panting at a Courtier's Play,
And not a Mask went un-improv'd away:
The modest Fan was liked up no more,
And Virgins smil'd at what they blush'd before--
The following Licence of a Foreign Reign
Did all the Dregs of bold Socinus drain;
Then Unbelieving Priests reform'd the Nation,
And taught more Pleasant Methods of Salvation;
Where Heav'ns Free Subjects might their Rights dispute,
Lest God himself shou'd seem too Absolute.
Pulpits their Sacred Satire learn'd to spare,
And Vice admir'd to find a Flatt'rer there!
Encourag'd thus, Witt's Titans brav'd the Skies,
And the Press groan'd with Licenc'd Blasphemies--
These Monsters, Criticks! with your Darts engage,
Here point your Thunder, and exhaust your Rage!
Yet shun their Fault, who, Scandalously nice,
Will needs mistake an Author into Vice;
All seems Infected that th' Infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the Jaundic'd Eye.
What is certain is the way that writing about death became a strength for him, and brought a lasting power in his best work. No one who feared death could have written the end of “Stuart Little,” in which the hero-mouse goes off in search of the heroine, a bird named Margalo, who has flown away “without saying anything to anybody.” But Stuart is also a romantic, like his creator, and interrupts his search for Margalo to invite a young girl he has met, Harriet Ames—she is just his size—to a picnic. He plans it carefully, but nothing goes right. The day is cloudy, Stuart has a headache, and some idle boys smash the souvenir birchbark canoe in which he means to take her for a paddle. He is disconsolate, and, when Harriet can’t cheer him up, she leaves.
'Twere well, might Criticks still this Freedom take;
But Appius reddens at each Word you speak,
And stares, Tremendous! with a threatning Eye
Like some fierce Tyrant in Old Tapestry!
Fear most to tax an Honourable Fool,
Whose Right it is, uncensur'd to be dull;
Such without Wit are Poets when they please.
As without Learning they can take Degrees.
Leave dang'rous Truths to unsuccessful Satyrs,
And Flattery to fulsome Dedicators,
Whom, when they Praise, the World believes no more,
Than when they promise to give Scribling o'er.
'Tis best sometimes your Censure to restrain,
And charitably let the Dull be vain:
Your Silence there is better than your Spite,
For who can rail so long as they can write?
Still humming on, their drowzy Course they keep,
And lash'd so long, like Tops, are lash'd asleep.
False Steps but help them to renew the Race,
As after Stumbling, Jades will mend their Pace.
What Crouds of these, impenitently bold,
In Sounds and jingling Syllables grown old,
Still run on Poets in a raging Vein,
Ev'n to the Dregs and Squeezings of the Brain;
Strain out the last, dull droppings of their Sense,
And Rhyme with all the Rage of Impotence!
Such shameless Bards we have; and yet 'tis true,
There are as mad, abandon'd Criticks too.
The Bookful Blockhead, ignorantly read,
With Loads of Learned Lumber in his Head,
With his own Tongue still edifies his Ears,
And always List'ning to Himself appears.
All Books he reads, and all he reads assails,
From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales.
With him, most Authors steal their Works, or buy;
Garth did not write his own Dispensary.
Name a new Play, and he's the Poet's Friend,
Nay show'd his Faults--but when wou'd Poets mend?
No Place so Sacred from such Fops is barr'd,
Nor is Paul's Church more safe than Paul's Church-yard:
Nay, fly to Altars; there they'll talk you dead;
For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.
Distrustful Sense with modest Caution speaks;
It still looks home, and short Excursions makes;
But ratling Nonsense in full Vollies breaks;
And never shock'd, and never turn'd aside,
Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering Tyde!
Thanks for the heads-up, very useful, but I also have to say that when as early as page one of the article I was reading about the "interrogation of fear," I knew just what I was in for already.
For Lethem, “Life During Wartime” is the band’s pinnacle, and the song is still a hell of a thing to hear. (A point about Talking Heads not often enough made: they cooked. Byrne was the funkiest white man in pop until Flea showed up.) But most of the iTunes generation has never heard it. “Fear of Music” appeared in 1979. Indeed, while Talking Heads can be detected in so much music today, from Radiohead to Vampire Weekend, years-old dust covers most of their catalogue.
To me, the Whites’ later concern with their health was a substitute joint effort, more loving than angry, and constituted a fresh form of intimacy as the two grew older. Andy missed the joy and youth that he had known in my mother and the passion that she had brought to her work as an editor, an obsessive gardener, and a non-stop letter-writer; once he told me how he mourned the day when she decided that she’d have to give up her evening Martini or Old-Fashioned. We in the family often speculated that Andy’s hypochondria wasn’t a way to stay close to her as much as fear of death in another form: if he could intercept each twinge and malaise as it arrived and bring it squirming to the light, then the ultimate event might yet be forestalled. But this is too easy. Rather, I’ve come to believe that his anxieties were a neurotic remnant of childhood. He was the last child of affectionate but older parents—his father, Samuel White, a piano-company executive, was forty-five when he was born and his mother, Jessie, forty-one. There were two prior brothers and three sisters; the oldest sibling, a sister named Marion, was eighteen years older than he was, and the youngest, Lillian, already a five-year-old. There seems to be no dark family event to seize upon, but one can imagine that a cough or a skinned knee or a passing stomach ache would have brought a rush of attention to young En (as he was called then) amid the daily news and doings of so many vibrant elders.