On Schadenfreude and Compassion

I’ve seen a disturbing trend in things reported through social media and other outlets. More people seem to be amused by the misfortune of others. You might argue that the shenanigans are simply getting more press these days, and maybe that’s true. Bullying and violence against the innocent for “fun” have been around for a long time. These days, though, there’s usually some nut catching it all on camera to make sure it goes viral.

You get kids walking up to complete strangers and smacking the tar out of them “just for fun.” Some people have landed in the hospital or worse as a result. Recently, a group of guys did their own disgusting version of the ice bucket challenge with an autistic fellow as their target. One of my social media friends recently commented that a member of his family makes fun of him for grieving the death of someone special in his life. And politics?  Wow. I see much virtual laughing and finger-pointing when something goes awry.

I’m not talking about rejoicing in justice done. There’s a difference between seeing a criminal brought to justice and finding amusement in his execution.

What became of compassion? Or doing to others as we wish others to do to us?

It still exists. Occasionally, there are reports of situations like Drew Carey offering a reward for the arrest of those responsible for the despicable “ice bucket challenge” prank, or a Texas police officer helping out a homeless man, or Sir Patrick Stewart meeting with a young girl for Make-a-Wish.

The compassion is out there, and maybe that needs to start getting more press than the other.



5 thoughts on “On Schadenfreude and Compassion

  1. Cool post, very thought provoking.

    Now I think about it, I’ve always kinda thought that the internet doesn’t show us how bad it’s become, but rather how bad it’s always been. People have been sucking at being human throughout the ages (accurate historical sources such as the films 300 and Gladiator confirm this irrefutably).

    As long as we continue to view each child’s social development as separate from their formal education, and not our responsibility as a society, we’ll see poorly-raised turkeys raining showers of bigotry and callousness on the interwebs, and our heads.

    Wow, this has cheered me up immensely 😦 *takes a drink*


    • Yes, general meanness and delighting in others’ misfortunes is not new. Part of the problem is, as you say, that Internet puts it all in the open. Part of the problem is that behaviors are declining.

      I taught for fourteen years in low socio-economic districts. “Character education” has been reduced to arts and crafts and cute sayings. One report that was passed around the teachers in my last year of teaching suggested that there were higher rates of bullying after the antibullying programs than there was before. Correlation is not causation, but that bears more investigation.

      I caught grief regularly for trying to correct bad behavior whether I did it through behavioral theories (reward the good, punish the bad) or constructivism (logically build knowledge about why something can or should be done or not done) or any other pedagogical strategy I tried. Parents and sometimes administrators did not want me to do anything except ask the child to refrain from behaving badly. Frustrating, really.

      There’s a lot of inertia, but I think it can be overcome. Parents need to guard against putting garbage in their kids’ minds and need to instill better values like a work ethic and how to behave like civilized humans. Teachers and other adults need to be empowered to correct poor behavior, reward good behavior (instead of the everyone-needs-a-trophy mentality), and teach character in with the academic subjects. We as a society need to return to upholding heroes: the men and women, celebrity or otherwise, who show the compassion and decency that we want kids to emulate. These days, it’s the Bad Boys and Bad Girls that are celebrated. That needs to quit.

      In the meantime, here’s a story of a compassionate hero: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/marine-runs-boy-struggling-finish-5k-race-article-1.1415589

      People like this are out there. If they get more press, perhaps that will still turning the tide.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In the words of the Tao Te Ching, “Compassion is the road to Heaven.” When you consider it was written around 100 BC, it’s amazing how little human nature has changed 🙂


    • Yes, one of my principals had a quote posted on the outside of her door about how the younger generation no longer respected their elders and spent their days in useless pursuits. Many thought it was some modern celebrity who had made the comments. Nope. Socrates.

      There is nothing new under the sun, that’s for sure, but the shenanigans do seem to be accelerating. Perhaps that’s just the rate of reporting, however.

      Liked by 1 person

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