The Terror: Thinking About The Things That Strike Fear In Us : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture Why are we so scared? A list of things we are afraid of. Are we more afraid than we used to be?
NPR logo The Terror: Thinking About The Things That Strike Fear In Us

The Terror: Thinking About The Things That Strike Fear In Us

Question for the day: Why are we so afraid?

It strikes me that we are more scared — I mean as a culture — than we used to be.

Has the world gotten worse? Or is the problem in the way we think about, react to, and experience the world?

What do you think?

I guess there is no doubt that fear has always been big business in America. Our collective anxiety about communists, nuclear bombs, drugs, gays, Indians and blacks is world-renowned. Even if some of these things no longer seem so dangerous to the collective psyche as they once did, it is hard to deny that there has been a wild proliferation of objects of fear. Why?

We are raising our kids in a society of fear. This is not good.

What follows is a short list, in no particular order, of things we are terrified by. I have tried to include only things that are really, very scary, and that are new, or that at least have emerged in recent years in a new form. If an earlier generation had drawn up their list of the terrifying, it would have looked very different.

Notice the nonpartisan nature of the list Some of these fears are gifts of the right. Some of them are gifts of the left. They all strike in the belly.

(My own personal list would include Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, but let's not get distracted.)

— Fat

— Uncontrollable acceleration of cars

— Terrorism

— The climate

— Sex

— Sex on the internet

— Suicide bombers

— Plastic bags

— The Chinese

— The national debt

— Snow

— Immigrants

— Flouride

— E coli

— Priests

— Smokers

— Arab people

— Alzheimer's Disease


— The Great Ocean Garbage Patches

— Abductors of children

— Facebook

— Vacines

— Tobacco

— Drivers who talk on the phone

— Drivers who drink

— Drivers who are uninsured

— Drivers who are too old

— Drivers who are too young

— Mexican drug lords

— Insurance companies

— Guns

— Food

— The sun

— Dirty bombs

— Aging

— Dirty words

— The economy

— Genetically modified food