George Saunders on How We Deal with Anxiety

I’m interested in the way that Americans — well, probably people in general — tend to address their anxiety with yap. I know I do. This tendency to lack the self-confidence to simply not do anything — to refrain, to be silent, not react, not shoot, just stay out of the shit — that seems to be an American thing. It’s like we can’t tolerate being sidelined or inactive or inessential to any moment. We always have to be active and at the center of things. That’s a big generality, but I do sometimes wonder why it is that, if, say, a European gets pissed off, he gets drunk and falls asleep on the curb — takes himself out of the action. He can tolerate being abased, somewhat. But an American guy (again, generalizing like a big dog), especially your generic white guy, doesn’t like that. It’s as if he can’t say: “I am small/minor/temporarily losing.” If humiliated, he has to go out and do something. It’s like the worst thing that could happen is that, for a while, he might be…passive, or absent, or quiet, or inessential.

Except for me, of course. I am one of those virtuous, self-possessed white guys.

-George Saunders, in an interview with emusic.

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Photo: David Shankbone, wikimedia commons