A conversation about the ethics of schadenfreude.
Trump’s illness offers a real test of each person’s empathic capacity: Can you feel concern and compassion for the president as a human being, while vigorously disagreeing with particular policies or with things that he says? Seems like we used to be able to do that more easily. When President Reagan was shot, for example, my memory is that the country, across party lines, was not only stunned but also deeply concerned for his welfare. That was only 40 years ago.
On some Christian groups I drift in there has been an interesting perspective voiced.. to me both amusing and potentially cautionary. It goes something like this:
Now we are going to find out if we are dealing with Saul or Nebuchadnezzar... if he is very sick and loses or or dies, he is Saul, and is getting just deserts. if he lives and his diagnosis works to his advantage he is Nebuchadnezzar, and we are getting our just deserts.
Besides that as a Slav derived individual and comparative religion junky I never fail to chuckle at such darkLy humorous bible joke, I think there is something deeper about humility and the dangers of Schadenfreude that is often missed: it’s not easy to determine very often who exactly is getting a comeuppance.
It's interesting that the pleasure of watching an enemy like Trump suffer is the same as the pleasure experienced by his supporters at the suffering of the wealthy intellectual elite they so loathe. They feel that their pleasure at your suffering is karmic as well, so I guess we can all join hands in the brotherhood and sisterhood of twisting the knife.
I see why you say that righteous forms of schadenfreude can be an important form of anti-hypocrisy. Sometimes calling out hypocrisy is a way of expressing allegiance to the principle that the hypocrite betrays. But not always. The kind of schadenfreude that forms the underside of the Trump campaign is purely cynical. "they celebrate our pain" (think of fabricated accusations of schadenfreude are the stock in trade of conspiracy theory websites) "....so it's okay for us to celebrate theirs" (think: own the libs").
It is. We should seek to practice lovingkindness towards everyone - including our enemies. We should do our best to seek justice and redemption without finding delight in the suffering of others. It may be necessary for others to suffer (and to cause them to suffer) in the pursuit of a more important good, but we should be clear that a person's suffering is always a harm.
It is not "wicked" it is human. Nobody should attribute wickedness or evil to human emotions around what is perceived justice.
We feel the same sense of pleasure when we see someone who has committed a crime have to pay the price. We feel the same sense of pleasure when we warn someone not to do something stupid or they may get hurt. They do it and they get hurt. We don't feel "glad" about it, we feel "I told you so".
Trump brought his illness upon himself by refusing to mask, by refusing to social distance, by refusing to do the things that the doctors told him would make him safe.
I think it is actually better expressed as "getting back what you put out" or Karma. Screw around, get burned is also a better way of putting it.
There is nothing evil in having the satisfaction that the world works as science and rationality tells you it will.
I have no guilt being gleeful at the news that Trump and many in his personal orbit have now contracted Covid, a disease which has killed more than 200,000 Americans and could have been slowed if Trump hadn't made wearing a mask a political litmus test. Trump, his Republican enablers, and MAGA supporters have reveled in the cruelty and purposeful malice. Since hearing the news, I am the happiest I've been for the past four years. Call it schadenfreude if you want; I call it karma.
The Dutch language makes it easy to express your feelings, "eigen schuld, dikke bult". Your own fault, thick bump (one that you get when you slip and fall on your ass. We do not have any problems calling a spade, a spade and when you go drink some beers in a pub and throw some darts with other guys and get Covid, well, you ask for it. Yes, we will come to the funeral. Americans are weepy slobbering people and the English language does not help.