Since we’ve been back in Italy, many people have asked us what the greatest difference is between our society and that of the US. What we were most struck by was rather unexpected, especially for the Italians who are always associated with an idea of quality of life and happiness: Italians have lost their optimism! Let’s figure out how this could have happened.
Every time you open the newspaper all you get is bad news, mostly when you go into a shop you’re surrounded by long faces, if you scroll through your social network it is filled with complaints and alarmist headlines. You see few people smiling in the street, very little enthusiasm and, above all, less of a will to get things done. Yet Italy still has very much to offer, you can enjoy a quality lifestyle in our cities and we are surrounded by artistic and natural wonders that the whole world envies us, so why is nobody talking about that?
Why do we focus our efforts and our intelligence on exploring and analysing what is not working, rather than enhancing what we have?
Psychologists would say that typically when people are depressed they tend not to notice the beautiful and good things that happen in life. It follows that if I am too busy staring at the ground I will fail to notice that the sky is blue and the sun is shining. The fact that many overlook the positive aspects around them does not mean, however, that Italy’s good elements no longer exist. In fact, optimism brings with it a weighty responsibility, similar to that deriving from recognizing your own talents, for example, rather than complaining about your shortcomings.
Some argue that a pessimist is just a “well-informed optimist”. As explained previously in our article “I think positive”, our vision is different and we believe that the idea that pessimism = realism should be dispelled.
Pessimists are often people who have decided not to take responsibility for their life or their social role, taking refuge behind a comfortable “there is nothing we can do”.
But how did a people as creative, curious and fun-loving as the Italians finish up being victims to mass depression? We think that behind all this there lies the old strategy of using fear to control people: “we are going through a crisis, settle for less”, “be careful, play defensively”, “watch out for people who get results, they’re probably dishonest”.
Pessimism is a control strategy, optimism is a strategy for success because it allows you to see what works and to take responsibility for instigating change.
Optimism as a strategy
If it is true, as the philosopher H. Bergson said that “the eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” then Italy needs optimism enough to make the most of the good elements that still exist.
Maybe that’s why many of our compatriots who move away from Italy and find themselves in societies that tend towards optimism, rediscover the energy and skills that set Italians apart and allow us to make a difference, thereby creating new opportunities. Besides, a people who from the time of the ancient Romans onwards, has been able both geographically and culturally to conquer the world, certainly cannot expect to overcome the crisis currently gripping our society by withdrawing into itself.
As highlighted by our history, Italians express the best of themselves when they interact with others; they overcome their limitations and regain momentum when the set off to explore and travel. That’s why we should see the “brain drain” not as a threat but as an opportunity, by expanding our idea of what it means to be Italian beyond the confines of this peninsular and realizing that Italianicity is not linked to a geographical location but a culture, a system of values and a way of thinking about life of which optimism is an integral part.
If there is a boundary inside which we should contain our best brains it is this: to remain optimistic and aware of their own values and talents, with all the responsibilities that this entails.
PS: As you may have noticed, for some time we have chosen to publish our posts on Monday: the first day of the week, the day when we return to work, our inbox is overflowing with e-mails and our diaries are full of engagements, and so it’s more difficult to find the time to read. We consciously made this decision, despite the statistics against us, as we strongly wish to help our readers approach the week with a more positive outlook; that’s our contribution to defending optimism!
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