Schadenfreude or "Joy in Misfortune of Others"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:25 AM

For decades stand-up comics have mocked people with crooked or asymmetric faces. Much to the delight of their audiences, comedians today continue these ‘funny-bone’ performances. (The asymmetries could be caused by various kinds of accidents, or a stroke, Bell’s Palsy, or facial paralysis).
Remember Phantom of the Opera? In that case often the audience doesn’t make fun, but is scared. Then there is Quasimodo, the bell ringer in “Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo. (Brilliantly acted by Charles Laughton.) People mock and laugh at his plight and deformity; not only did he have a hump, but also a crooked or asymmetric face.
My interest in the “Why” we make fun or laugh at deformity goes back a long way. It comes from my own facial paralysis, caused by two malpractices during surgery.

In my boyhood in the Lowlands and Flanders the tradition of Court Jesters is kept alive through the Gilles de Binche Carnival and characters such as Tijl Uilenspiegel. In the Gilles de Binche parades, citizens in towns and villages don mediaeval costumes.

Recently, while contemplating in the garden at Pender Island, it became clear to me. This mocking and making fun at deformity has its origins long, long ago. It is imprinted in the psyche of the human family.

Very old Nepalese, African and First Nations, amongst other cultures, often depict the Shaman as having a crooked face. To scare the evil spirits. These beings were often revered. While in Pre-Columbian cultures, the hunchback was sacred. (Yours truly has one in alloy from the Andes).

The Court Jesters:

Court jesters had to amuse the King, Queen and court. The Fool, The Idiot, The Buffoon bring amusement, not merely by absurd tomfoolery, merry gossip or knavish tricks, but also by mocking in others their mental and other deficiencies.

Schadenfreude - Schaden = damage, harm; Freude = joy.

Here in Canada one of our Prime Ministers won an election in part because his rival made fun of his asymmetric face (caused by Bell’s Palsy) in a TV ad. It backfired. Proof that such mockery and tactics can go wrong when practiced with Schadenfreude.

Today, our delicate planet Earth, thanks to our malpractice, is deformed. We are the spoilers. Today many so-called people with power scoff and laugh at those who say our planet is very ill. This is global Schadenfreude at work on an unprecedented scale. Now that is something scary. (The Earth has "Aids, Ebola and cancer" all in one.) The planet desperately needs bon-practice.

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