History of Italy / Society

Does Italy have a pessimism problem ?

Depressed Italian women are often portrayed in Carlo Verdone’s movies.

Italy is in crisis. Even before the financial crash, its economy was lagging. Demographically the country is collapsing, something that the Vatican has been denouncing for years; despite that, it is less than ready to welcome immigrants. The whole world mocks the dominance of politics by Silvio Berlusconi.

All of this is worsened by a certain fame of second-rate Power that has been haunting Italy for centuries. After all, Italy was one of the last Powers in Europe to achieve independence. It failed in building a colonial Empire, becoming the first European Power to be soundly beaten in Africa (by Ethiopia, hence the short-lived revenge by the fascist Government in 1935). In 1943, after the Allied invaded Sicily, many found Italy all to ready to switch sides against Germany (while this didn’t deter the Allies from taking advantage of what was the left of the Italian Armed Forces and of the brave fight by the Resistance).

Many observers, both Italian and foreign, point out that the problem is in the mood. Italians, they say, are sinking in pessimism, fatalism and self-pity, refusing the idea of any possibility to make things better and thus any responsibility. They don’t like their own envied country and lifestyle anymore, and they don’t think that the magic can ever come back. They despise the system as if they weren’t themselves part of it.

Are such arguments valid ? Yes and no. In every country (European countries in particular) you will detect a very similar mood. Perhaps in Italy it is only amplified by our penchant for the theatrical, and for historic reasons. Indeed, it is true that Italy is very young as a Nation State. But historically, it is the most ancient seat of Western culture, second only to Greece. Therefore, if a malady of Western civilization exists, it is just normal that the symptoms are particularly acute in Italy.

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