ETYMOLOGY and origin of words have always intrigued me — foreign words like schadenfreude (pleasure in misfortune befalling others), words like stoicism and sadomasochism. There is no direct synonym for this word in English. Gloating and epicaricacy were the closest vis-vis schadenfreude.
We can carve a deduction relative to the moral retrogression, hatred, and anger so predominant in our societal strata. Schadenfreude is a passive and hidden emotion seen generally in people who are victims of neglect, depression and suffering. In our society this trend has reached new heights.
A feeling of hatred and callousness to the point of stoicism (no feeling) has reached dangerous levels. Intolerance and bigotry have given vent to lynchings and mob rule. The public are devoid of emotion in witnessing a lynching.
In a lighter vein, schadenfreude is applicable to sports like golf, where you always desire that your opponent’s ball lies in the worst possible position and the immense joy once misfortune strikes the foe. This is a classic case of schadenfreude.
It is also a passive emotion in which satisfaction is derived from the falling from grace of one’s adversaries. In Pakistan this emotional behaviour is more pronounced. The widening gap between rich and poor with a disappearing middle class makes for a volatile situation. Class hatred, growing frustration and envy prevalent in our society have increased manifold. Resultantly people feel malicious pleasure in the misfortune of relatives, neighbours and co-workers.
Pakistani style politics is a glaring example of a phenomenon where parties and personalities resort to all sorts of chicanery and devious methods to cast aspersions on opponents. Opponents thus derive malicious pleasure to find ‘kinks’ in an opponent’s armour. Parties resort to all sorts of nefarious insinuations to defame political rivals for moral ascendency.