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.
11 thoughts on “Group therapy”
Brilliant and poignant piece. And truly, Schadenfreude is omnipresent, and not always obvious. 🙂
Look upon our happiness, ye Miserable, and despair.
Some find it easy to limit their perception of happiness and satisfaction to themselves. These are the dreamers, happy-go-lucky kinds. Others selflessly help out of a sense of duty and the sentiment is genuine. But I agree that mostly, it’s a case happiness being relative.
There are days that even I don’t agree with the extremely cynical worldview that I’ve expounded here. 🙂
True empathy is possible and as you mention happiness does not have to even indirectly stem from someone’s misery. But as you pointed out, happiness of people in a group is relative.
Brilliant article…and i agree …its all relative for most of us, more so for the relatives…:D
At moments of strife
She was always taught
to look at those less blessed than her
and count her own blessings..
This remedy always worked,
till the day , she felt guilt
seeping through her
when the cause of her relief and self-assurance
and gratitude to God
was the fact that, someone, somewhere
was less blessed!!
Very nice. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Many of our ‘good feelings’ are relative. But some are absolute, no?
A child’s smile. Sunset in Hawaii. Mom’s food.
Raindrops and Roses and Blue Satin Sashes… oh wait, that is a song?!
I knew something didn’t sound quite right..the lyrics! But still, raindrops on roses are nice enough for most? 🙂
Thanks for reading and commenting. Very well said. 🙂