I was frustrated with the typos I was making with the on-screen keyboard of the tablet, until I saw someone grapping with the much smaller keyboard of a smartphone. At the bus stop, I was standing last in line and restlessly looking at my watch, until someone stood right behind me. Later that evening, I was grimacing and cursing the ineffectiveness of a painkiller I had ingested, until I noticed that listed on the bottle were adverse effects which included paralysis and death.
On hot days, I perk up when I see people wearing dark suits. While standing in the sun, I look for people with light complexions. On icy days, when pavements are slippery, I look to see if anyone is wearing high-heels.
Schadenfreude need not be so obvious. Be grateful for the family that loves you, the job that you call your own, and the food you have on your table. Others are not so lucky.
Gratitude implies that something scarce and of immediate value is in our possession. From the realization that others find what we have to be of value, often comes charity, an explicit acknowledgment that we are better off than others.
And so the Great Machine chugs forward fueled by human misery – every miserable person in search of someone worse off until the most wretched soul on the planet is found and subjected to the full force of our collective pity and charity.
Of course, charity does not shake the roots of the hierarchy. Charity does not imply role-reversal. We are better off than those we are charitable towards because of our innate qualities – we work harder, we are smarter, we possess better social skills, we believe in the real god, we are the chosen people – and not because of stochastic injustice.
And what fate awaits those who shun our selfless charity? Or worse yet, are above us in the hierarchy and in possession of what we ourselves desire? A relentless chase in search of hamartia, Achilles’ heel, Duryodhana’s inner-calf, to create a perfect tragedy –
“He had money, but what is money? He didn’t pay attention to his family and I heard that his unhappy wife cheated on him.”
“She was creative, but died of a curable disease because art isn’t everything, you know!”
Our heroization is only achievable through the demonization of others. This is Aufklärung.