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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Schadenfreude - what ? ! ?

In  life, one’s support need not rest with the powerful or the most likely winner – nay, nothing connected to present politics of Tamil Nadu or of the local body elections.  For elections – there is only one request / one rule – do vote, never give a silly reason and abstain – it is democratic right and exercise it judiciously by voting for the right candidate, ensure that wrong ones are defeated !

In games – Tennis – I was a great fan of Ivan Lendl, time and again he would perform so well at Wimbledon but falter at the last lap and I would not want to read the newspaper at the finals, those details of how he lost would always be painful.  Miles away in Australian Open 2022, Rafael Nadal edged Medvedev in an epic final, roaring back from two sets down to claim a record 21st Grand Slam title.  Riding a wave of raucous support from the crowd, a vintage Nadal pulled off one of his finest performances to deny Medvedev again, less than three years after leaving the Russian heartbroken in five sets at the 2019 U.S. Open final. In a match steeped in drama, Nadal was two points from the title but was broken as he served for the match at 5-4.He held firm to break Medvedev again and served out the match to love, rushing in to deliver a backhand volley as a stunning coup de grace.

With Novak Djokovic forced out by deportation and Roger Federer recovering from knee surgery, the Spanish great is now one major title clear of his ‘Big Three’ rivals after surviving the 2-6 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4 7-5 thriller at Rod Laver Arena.

.. .. and why was Djokovic absent.  In 2021 - Novak Djokovic had successfully defended the Men's Singles title as he claimed his 18th Grand Slam title, defeating Daniil Medvedev in straight sets. Sofia Kenin was the defending Women's Singles champion, but she lost to Kaia Kanepi in the second round. In the final, Naomi Osaka claimed her fourth Grand Slam singles title, defeating first-time Major finalist Jennifer Brady in straight sets.

I am no great fan of Nadal but one of Djoko.  Words like “indomitable” and “intransigent” have always figured in the accolades heaped upon Novak Djokovic. But those same qualities may ultimately torpedo Djokovic’s proclaimed goal of becoming the most prolific Grand Slam champion in the history of the game.In telling the BBC that he is unequivocally committed to sitting out the upcoming majors if they require him to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the world’s No. 1 player is throwing his own left hook at the tennis establishment. Now, with the pandemic seemingly on the wane, growing resistance to protocols triggered by the health crisis, and tennis eager to return to a semblance of normalcy, the question becomes, “Who blinks?”

Will the lords of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open mount some form of campaign to ensure that Djokovic be able to compete, or will they stand firm on rules that make competing in their events contingent upon being vaccinated? A lot can happen in the coming months, but it’s as if Djokovic and the tennis establishment are playing an unprecedented game of chicken, only that proverbial cliff neither really wants to go over keeps moving.“Freedom” and “principle” are powerful words that ought to be used sparingly in the Covid conversation. Nobody has ever questioned Djokovic’s freedom to be unvaccinated, only the idea that he was free to game the system in January, or avoid the rules governing entry into tennis tournaments. Incidentally, the majority of Djokovic’s peers have quietly accepted vaccination and its inherent risks as the cost of doing business, and they’ve done it without throwing around loaded words like “sacrifice,” or “civic duty.”

The first element is social comparison,  “the way people manage their own egos, how they wish to perceive themselves as good enough or sometimes better than others … it is a reward experience, that feeling of superiority when someone else fails”. This is the schadenfreude that is rooted in envy or resentment, the kind you would be likely to feel towards a friend who was also a rival.

Did some people concentrate more on those who missed out on IPL auction rather than gloating on the crores won by some else ?   in the much fancied IPL Auction 2022 – a total of 204 players were sold with value of Rs.551.70 crores – obviously there were some big names that went unsold with no franchise hearing when their names were sounded.  That list has Suresh Raina, Steve Smith, Shakib al Hasan, Adil Rashid, Imran Tahir, Aaron Finch, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan, Chris Lynn, Tabraiz Shamsi, Adam Zampa, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma, Martin Guptill, Sheldon Cottrell, Amit Mishra among many others. 

Be it the unsold or the case of Novak Djokovic – it was apparent that some fet happy in them faltering !  - in career too, one would have observed people enjoying and having a personal satisfaction when rivals falter.  When someone does not get the promotion, one could see a barely recognizable twitch of grin before the tumble of commiserations. Make no mistake. Over time, and in many different places, when it comes to making SELF  happy, we humans have long relied on the humiliations and failures of other people.

There has never really been a word for these grubby delights in English. In the 1500s, someone attempted to introduce “epicaricacy” from the ancient Greek, but it didn’t catch on. In 1640, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote a list of human passions, he asked, “that men take pleasure to behold from the shore the danger of them that are at sea in a tempest?” What strange combination of joy and pity, he wrote, makes people “content to be spectators of the misery of their friends”? Hobbes’s mysterious and terrible passion remained without a name, in the English language at least. In 1926, a journalist in The Spectator asserted that “there is no English word for Schadenfreude because there is no such feeling here.” He was wrong.. .. ..

Schadenfreude (German:lit. 'harm-joy') is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another. It is a borrowed word from German, with no direct translation, that originated in the 18th century.  Gleaning the web further, there appears equivalents in many languages !!  :   The Japanese have a saying: “The misfortunes of others taste like honey.” The French speak of joie maligne, a diabolical delight in other people’s suffering. The Danish talk of skadefryd, and the Dutch of leedvermaak. “To see others suffer does one good,” wrote the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. “To make others suffer even more so. This is a hard saying, but a mighty, human, all-too-human principle.”

Today, Schadenfreude is all around us. It’s there in the way we conduct ourselves,  how we treat celebrities, in online fail videos. But these heady pleasures are shot through with unease. Moralists have long despised Schadenfreude. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer called it “an infallible sign of a thoroughly bad heart and profound moral worthlessness,” the very worst trait in human nature. (He also said that anyone caught enjoying the suffering of others should be shunned from human society !- if that be done, how many or who would remain)!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
17th Feb 2022. 

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