Sunday, March 08, 2009

while meanwhile in italy . . .

My wife and I had a free hour last night between dinner and picking up my son at political junkie training last night, so we stopped in one of the nearby mall bookstores, where she went to look at serious books and I browsed through the Italian newsmagazines. Amidst the usual stories of economic and political decline was a poll of Italian parliamentarians which asked a simple question: have you ever been unfaithful to your spouse or other partner? 87 percent--seven of eight--responded in the affirmative, and some of the remainder refused to answer.

Statistics about infidelity are notoriously unreliable, since there's no way to check and people tend to lie about it--in both directions. In one sense, it doesn't matter: the perception of what is socially acceptable, rather than the behavioral reality, is arguably more culturally significant, and the polling data (whether over- or understated) pretty clearly answers the former question for the Italian elite. Italy may be going to the dogs, but it's nice to see it maintaining its cultural identity. Or, perhaps, exporting it.


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