[Schadenfreude]: we rejoice over other people's misfortune
Lisa: Homer. Dad, do you know what Schadenfreude is?
Homer: No, I don't know what "shaden-frawde" is. Please tell me, because I'm dying to know.
Lisa: It's a German term for "shameful joy," taking pleasure in the suffering of others.
Homer. . Oh, come on, Lisa. I'm just glad to see him fall flat on his butt! He's usually all happy and comfortable, and surrounded by loved ones, and it makes me feel ... What's the opposite of that shameful joy thing of yours?
Lisa : Sour grapes.
Homer : Boy, those Germans have a word for everything!
The origins of "One man's pain is another man's pleasure" can be found in old English texts circa mid-1500s and has been used in a variety of ways since ("one man's meat is another man's poison," etc.).
There are two kinds of Schadenfreude:
In the early part of the nineteenth century until today, the physical aspects of Schadenfreude could be seen in the broadness of slapstick comedy—from the base humor of someone slipping on a banana peel, to getting hit in the face or head with a 2 x 4, to falling off a ladder, to stepping on a rake, all the way up to the seemingly endless stream of getting kicked/punched/rammed in the genitals that made up the bulk of the entertainment that was America's Funniest Home Videos and Jackass. Their pain is palpable and, to many watching, riotously funny.
The other kind manifested itself in a slightly more cerebral way … the joy one takes when someone lets their success go to their head and, as a result, becomes an obnoxious bore. It is the pleasure we take on seeing who gets fired on The Apprentice or who gets voted off the island on Survivor. When they eventually screw up (and they do, more often than not), there is a feeling that overtakes us that can only be described with that very German word: Schadenfreude
These days, those "downfalls" are the main source of most news reporting, whether on television, radio, via Twitter and Facebook, and in pretty much all media. There is nothing that sells papers or attracts viewers like a good scandal involving a celebrity, a politician, or a sports star who has been caught breaking the rules.
Picture this ...
You're walking down the street in, say, New York City, and you spy a man knocking a woman and her small child out of the way as they try to catch a cab. The man, an upstanding lion of business, is in a hurry and his business meeting (or whatever) is going to take precedent over the mere needs of a mom and her offspring. The cab pulls out and gets hit broadside by another cab. No one is hurt … but that elation you feel, knowing that the guy in the cab is going to miss his "important" meeting ... why, that's SCHADENFREUDE.
SCHADENFREUDE comes in many shapes and colors. It can be as simple as cheering and clapping that follows a waitress dropping a tray of dishes or a bartender breaking a glass.
It can be the exultant gladness one feels when a stunningly beautiful contestant in a major beauty contest gives an answer to a question that clearly shows her to have the IQ of a Q-tip.
It can be the unexpected pleasure one feels while watching a young actor or actress, who has not done any work of significance in his/her short and not particularly stellar career, get arrested for drugs . . . or bad driving ... or shoplifting . . . or any myriad of possible infractions that you know will have major consequences down the road. And the immediate image that pops into your head where they're wearing an orange jersey while they spear trash on the side of the road under the supervision of an armed guard ... that's SCHADENFREUDE.
Admit it … it forms the basis of much of our humor. From the slapstick of the 3 Stooges to the Keystone Cops to Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd … on through Chevy Chase's pratfalls at the beginning of the early days of Saturday Night Live … to the angst of The Hangover and pretty much every Steve Carell movie ... we laugh instinctively at the misfortunes of others ... and if the recipients have been presented as vicious or evil or arrogant or condescending ... well, there is a level of satisfaction that comes from seeing revenge enacted. That feeling of satisfaction from a perceived justice? That's SCHADENFREUDE.
Today I got up with my head confused as I do from time to time. I question my life, go through my past failures one by one. I had received this wkend a whatsapp message from a friend, to which I hadn't replied, but in the metro this morning, I take the time to send him a short message. She told me she had just been dumped. Instantly I felt better. #sostrange
We do not love people so much for the good they have done us, as for the good we do them.
Let people realize clearly that every time they threaten someone or humiliate or unnecessarily hurt or dominate or reject another human being, they become forces for the creation of psychopathology, even if these be small forces. Let them recognize that every person who is kind, helpful, decent, psychologically democratic, affectionate, and warm, is a psychotheraputic force, even though a small one.
Yet, certainly, the wise learn many things from their enemies; for caution preserves all things. From a friend you could not learn this, but your foe immediately obliges you to learn it. For example, the states have learned from enemies, and not from friends, to build lofty walls, and to possess ships of war. And this lesson preserves children, house, and possessions.
Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.