Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Teuflische Schadenfreude

I'm furious and on my high horse. In the wake of the horrors that have struck Japan in the past few days, there are actually people out there saying "serves you right" to a nation reeling in shock. Just yesterday morning on the Gareth Cliff show some silly woman who evidently has tapioca pudding for brains proudly stated that the Japanese were getting their (ahem) just desserts because of their "cruelty". It of course never occurred to her that almost every other nation in the world has at some time or other been Satan's little helper in the treatment of their fellow man. Other fuckwits are intoning similar attitudes, citing Japan's whaling policies or ecological record as the cause of a monstrous karmic payback.

Of course. It makes such sense now. As if busloads of Japanese senior citizens go on daily dolphin-clubbing excursions. As if Japanese children are trained to be ninjas from kindergarten. Following this logic Spain should have been drowned by floods for the Inquisition. (The Rain In Spain, you see...) The Earth's very crust would by now havbe exploded open and burnt Great Britain to a crisp to atone for the evils of colonialism. Germany would be toast. Why, South Africa must be on constant astronomical watch for that giant meteor that's going to impact on Orania, any day now, to pay for the atrocities of apartheid.

Humanity would have ceased to exist millennia ago if there were a blood debt to be paid for all the things our species have done to the Earth and to each other. The Universe, fortunately in this case, has bigger cosmic fish to fry. Spare a thought for the cosmos; it must be exhausting keeping the total amount of energy in your system absolutely constant. That said, it must be even more exhausting to find pleasure in other people's misfortune.

The Germans have that wonderful word, schadenfreude. The philosopher Artur Schopenhauer is famous for his statement,  "Neid zu empfinden, menschlich, Schadenfreude zu genie├čen, teuflisch." (To feel envy is human, to enjoy schadenfreude [joy in the suffering of others] is devilish.) Unfortunately we're all guilty of it. Note that Schopenhauer says the evil is specifically in enjoying our pleasures in others misfortunes - who hasn't rubbed their hands together in glee when misery overcomes our enemies? I would go as far as to impose a statute of limitations on Schopenhauer's statement - sorry, but, wouldn't many of us be happy to be teuflisch to see a child molester deep-fried in oil or a rapist's offending bits be cut off slowly? It's very hard to live up to the teachings of the great religious figures to submit our rage and ego to a higher power. But I'm still shocked that people like that caller could paint with such broad brushstrokes.

Then there's the case of Christopher Hitchens who is dying a painful death from cancer. He's a prominent atheist, the author of the bestselling God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. And there are people calling themselves Christians who are delighting in the fact that he has cancer. They see it as divine punishment. I bet they're just waiting for Richard Dawkins to get crippled by some awful degenerative disease. It freaks me out how these so-called Believers can get so drunk on self-righteousness that they wish a fellow human being a painful death... while at the same time espousing a religion of peace and love! Ironically, they're furthering Hitchens' cause by making the theists look bad. It almost makes me ashamed to say that I believe in God. Almost. Until I realise that we're obviously not believing in the same God.

Verily, man creates God in his own image. Perhaps some of us feel the need to rain down righteous anger because we have a pathological need for order. We crave answers.
We ask, "Why Japan?"

If the Universe replied "because they deserve it" we'd have a reason not to worry any more. It would be so much easier.

But the Universe always replies the same thing to every question: "Why not?"

Why not indeed? So - to try and attempt to turn the other cheek as it were, perhaps these people who would assign blame around every corner need love and understanding.

Then again maybe they're just assholes and I'd love to have them go through all the horrors that the people they condemn have endured...

Oops. Schadenfreude.

1 comment:

Norma :) said...

Thanks for that! Made me feel better and laugh too. What a bunch of idiots!