How to keep calm and carry on

I'm writing this as the last election results come in, but it will be published in the aftermath of those results, so I'm in the perplexing position of not being able to talk about the outcome of the election, even though it is by far the most significant thing to occur since my column began. I suppose
I'll cover every eventuality of a hung parliament by taking this opportunity to welcome our new leaders, whoever they are. So, there, we've dealt with the Westminster-sized elephant in the room and I've avoided falling out of favour with whoever now controls the media. We can -
as the phrase goes - "Keep Calm and Carry On".

No catchphrase, not even Bruce Forsyth's successfully exhumed "Nice to see you . . .", has enjoyed such faddishness over the past couple of years as this wartime advice. "Keep Calm and Carry On" can be seen on teacups, posters, T-shirts, and is no doubt being stencilled on to the side of limited-edition anti-aircraft missiles as we speak. There's something in this quintessentially British phrase of yesteryear that has tapped into our frantic modern world. Printer jammed? Not sure what witty thing to say next on Twitter? Global warming threatening to destroy the
planet within 20 years? Let's all just keep calm.

Personally, I'm not sure I buy this. For my money, worrying is sorely underrated. Its detractors will claim that it never does any good, but on the contrary, I think I speak for many in saying that it's only by worrying that we ever get anything
done. Scarcely anything is as powerful a motivator as the feeling, at around 4am, that everything is about to come crashing down around your
ears. Without anxiety and paranoia, productivity would go through the floor.

It's no accident that scores of high achievers, from Winston Churchill to Lisa Simpson, have been restless, neurotic, introspective types. Restlessness is crucial if we want to make progress. There will always be people who insist that you should "live in the moment" and leave the future to sort out itself, but those people tend to plan barbecues for weekends with a poor weather forecast, and end up paying a fortune for their train tickets. "Living in the moment" is all very well if you're at Glastonbury, or on the beach; it's not much of a tactic for everyday life.

So, please, don't take the grand old tradition of worrying away from those of us who find it an essential defence against the ongoing problem of life. Without permission to worry, I'd be extremely uneasy. Fear will still be around long after this misguided craze for rational thought has died away.
And don't come crying to me when your mugs and tea towels and T-shirts go out of fashion. I'll be making a fortune with my "Panic, Over-React
and Envisage the Worst" merchandise range.

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 17 May 2010 issue of the New Statesman, On a tightrope