Whether this is an appropriate way to battle the national melancholy - and opinions vary greatly on this issue - the very existence of such a campaign, reportedly the first of its sort in this country, is a sign of what is generally recognized here: that Germany is indeed in a sour mood, its economy in the doldrums, its financial deficits too high and none of its leaders strong or visionary enough to lead the way out....
[I]t has now settled pretty deeply in the collective awareness that unification has been an economic and a spiritual failure. It cost, and still costs, a staggering amount of money in financial transfers from the former West to the poorer and smaller former East, where the money seems to have vanished without a trace.
Now, the westerners are unhappy because the disappearance of all that money is seen as the root of Germany's economic stagnation and high unemployment. The easterners are notoriously unhappy because life is less secure than it used to be under Communism, and, as this cycle continues, the westerners are irritated that the easterners are unhappy....
[Critics of the ad campaign argue] that what Germany needs is not singers and athletes (and literary critics, television anchor women and 8-year-olds) telling them to cheer up, but serious attention to the country's real problems.
The intellectual weekly Die Zeit heaped scorn on the campaign, labeling it "propaganda" and excoriating its creators in particular for what the paper deemed their "tasteless" use of the Holocaust Memorial as a backdrop to the "You are Germany" chants of the gay and handicapped people.
"Unemployment is depicted as a consequence of the bad mood, a private phenomenon, which at any given time could be corrected by self-contemplation and positive thinking," wrote the paper's commentator, Jens Jessen.
This story got me thinking about Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech. People who are already unhappy about the economy do not like to hear that they ought to solve the problem by not being unhappy.