This is our ‘Age of Anxiety’…

Vince Rizzo
5 min readApr 22, 2024

There is a palpable anxiety that haunts our time. So much is up in the air as we lurch our way through trials and tribulations, each one in other times would seem enough. Each now takes its turn in the headlines- the Mideast, Ukraine, the climate crisis, the trials of Donald Trump, the rise of fascism, anti-Semitism…

“The wolves will get you if the moths won’t.”
― W.H. Auden,
The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue

History tells us that we are not alone in our anxiety. A few generations before, a bitter war that took more than 22 million lives followed a Great Depression that engulfed the world. Good times have always punctuated the anxiety-riddled times that seem to interject themselves so often and for so long. It appears the world is on the brink once again.

I am reminded of the 20th-century poet W.H. Auden’s book-length final poem The Age of Anxiety written in 1947 at the end of World War II- an end that birthed the anxiety-laden atomic era.

“When the historical process breaks down and armies organize with their embossed debates the ensuing void which they can never consecrate, when necessity is associated with horror and freedom with boredom, then it looks good to the bar business.”

- from the prologue , “The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue”

Auden reminds us that “anxiety” breeds a product that flourishes in a marketplace. The wealthiest Americans were further enriched through the Depression era because they could gobble up real estate and goods whose costs and prices had plummeted. In WW II, war profiteers like IG Farben, and industrialists like Dupont and U.S. steel manufacturers were likewise able to cash in on the suffering of others- waging war is far more profitable than waging peace.

So who profits now? What is different about our time and our place in history? No surprises here, it’s the usual suspects. While change is inevitable, its progress is slowed by those who are comfortable in the present. They are doing just fine, they’ll admit, let’s keep it that way. Good times and bad times are their times.

Who controls global wealth?

In 2022, the world’s millionaires held nearly half of net household wealth. Decades of low interest rates led equities and real estate values to soar, and these assets are disproportionately held among the world’s wealthiest.

…The highest wealth rung controls $208.3 trillion in wealth, or 45.8% of the global total. Just 1.1% of the world adult population fall in this bracket.

Those with $100,000 to $1 million have the next greatest share, at 39.4% of net household wealth.

-, “Visualizing the Pyramid of Global Wealth Distribution,” by Dorothy Neufeld

Change is a force of nature, and stasis is overwhelmed by sheer certainty that time and circumstances alter the present and must accommodate change. Every new dawn adds impetus to a tipping point- small changes that eradicate and make obsolete the past. We are nearly there. The distinction between a tipping point and a turning point may appear insignificant, but there is a difference. While one may lead to the other, the process is not reversible.

Tipping points are the predecessors of larger movements. Just as the automobile supplanted the horse and buggy, once the tipping point was reached, the dimension of change was widespread and unmistakable. In turn, transportation added another dimension to freedom, opening up a nation, expanding commerce, and bringing regions closer together. Today, we might compare it to the oil industry and the battle it has been fighting with new and emerging energy sources. Because petroleum is a non-renewable resource and its uses have helped create what we now call the climate crisis, this battle between the rich oil industry and oil-producing nations that profit from it has a more complicated process. As we slow-walk toward a tipping point, nature may be making a point of its own- a non-reversible turning point. Meanwhile, the “small changes” leading up to a restored climate condition are being fought on a geopolitical plane oftentimes related to the headline-causing anxieties we are feeling now. The battleground is set; on one side the future, on the other, greed and chaos:

“We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.”

— W.H.Auden, “ The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue”

Most if not all of our anxieties are interrelated. Wars fought for honor and glory are better reserved for fiction. While there is no such thing as a “small war” for combatants, even the threat of war will dredge up hostilities, like what is occurring in Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza; renewing ancient hostilities, anti-Semitism, famine, and genocide. But wars are fought for prizes and by those who are enriched with the suffering of others. The everyday concerns of modern “everymen” are mere nuisances in their estimation.

We are right to be anxious. Auden’s book-length observations of a world in crisis are as relevant today as in those postwar years when a generation of school children learned to “duck and cover” under their school desks. Bob Dylan once asked, “When will they ever learn?” To date, our answer has been, “We’re working on it.”

Auden asks a similar question in his poem, one whose answer has come due. As one reads it today, his question is in the form of a cosmic riddle:

“We cannot be deaf to the question: ‘Do I love this world so well that I have to know how it ends?”
― W.H. Auden,
The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue

Some riddles require a clever answer, but this has a truly existential facet. Have we as a species evolved to this point only to allow the power of our intellect to supplant its wisdom? Holding those who threaten our very existence accountable is critical. Whether in a Manhattan courtroom, a Washington, D.C. Capitol Building, a Kremlin redoubt, or a corporate headquarters, determining how it ends should never be left to them.

Originally published at



Vince Rizzo

Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.