01/17/2008 - Taken aback by critical depictions of their country's "collective funk," Italians are currently engaged in considerable hand-wringing over the condition of their national psyche. It started a few weeks ago with a broadside from across the Atlantic by Ian Fisher in the New York Times. "Italy," Fisher wrote, "seems not to love itself." Analyzing the country's malaise, he detailed a litany of woes: an anemic economy, a low birth rate, corrupt politicians, mobsters. Only days later, the London Times piled on, lamenting Italy's "national angst" as it "faces up to being old and poor." Worse still, the country's international image has suffered with press reports of Naples' garbage crisis -- with landfills overflowing in late December, collectors stopped picking up trash, which now piles up in unpleasant mounds across the city.
Certainly rotting trash is not the image most Americans associate with Italy, the land of dramatic history, great food, and expensive style (think Gucci, Armani, Ferrari). And many Americans return from Italy with a strong appreciation for the Italian approach to living -- the slower pace, the long meals, the passeggiata, or "evening stroll." But in truth, the malaise camp might be on to something. Italians are a bit glum, and it shows in public opinion polls. In spring 2007, the Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed 47 countries, and on a variety of issues -- life satisfaction, national conditions, immigration -- Italians had a distinctively negative outlook.
Read the full report Italy's Malaise: La Vita Non É Cosí Dolce on the Pew Research Center Web site.