I learned a new word today; epicaricacy.
Schadenfreude is a word I have heard used more commonly in recent times. It is a German word roughly translated as ‘joy of harm’. Basically, you are experiencing schadenfreude when you derive pleasure from someone else being harmed. I suppose it could be as simple as laughing at someone that falls down, or even laughing at your own mishaps. I posted a picture of Facebook just the other day of my left pinky toe. If you’ve read my other posts, you know how I feel about my feet (yeech) and trying to maneuver two size-13 planks while walking a bit like a duck can be a dangerous proposition. My foot came this pinky toe short of making it past a sturdy chair. Did it hurt? Hellz yesss! Did the cat look at me funny? Yep. Did my Husband yell (not looking up from saving the world on Call of Duty) “What did you do now?” Yep. Can I laugh about it now? Kinda.
My favorite personal example of schadenfreude is exemplified by my good friend Erika. I have a falling story that makes her cry in laughter every time she thinks of it. She has even sent me messages telling me she told my “falling story” again, and is still laughing thinking about it. The story goes that while I was attending college I worked part-time in the athletic recreation office. I would come from the gymnasium, cross (kitty cornered) a busy three-way stop to walk to the Psych building where most of my classes were. This day, I was wearing a new outfit. I had a brand new spanking pair of light blue jeans (yes, it was a while ago) and a pair of new cowboy boots. It was a bit misty that day and the pavement was wet. I was heading to class before work, so I walked from the parking lot, past the gymnasium and used my right of way to cross the three-way stop. At this time there were cars lined up in all three directions waiting to turn. I was the lone pedestrian. I made it to the middle of the intersections and boom! My new boots slipped and I went down on my left knee on the wet pavement (I was Tebowing before it was popular). The knee the my new jeans split across from seam to seam and I bloodied my knee. I jumped back up and hobbled to class trying to regain my dignity. I had to go to work after class through that sameintersection to get to work. Midway through the intersection, my heel slipped and boom! My right knee hit the pavement, splitting the jean leg from seam to seam and bloodying that knee as well. I wobbled to work lacking any dignity at this point. What I am thinking is that there is probably someone out there that saw me fall both times. How do you think their story goes?
So, schadenfreude just wasn’t the word I was looking for today. Upon looking it up I came across ‘epicaricacy’. It translates from the Greek as “joy upon evil”. It may seem like a similar word, but I think the word evil makes a difference.
Humans seem to crave the humiliation and degradation of those that we see as ‘fallen’ around us. Taunting one another, watching others fail, no, waiting and hoping for others to fail so that it makes us feel better. We have become a society of harpies and it makes me shudder to think what the upcoming generation will tolerate and encourage for their own self-pleasure and entertainment.
Not that getting enjoyment from watching people fail and having evil befall them hasn’t been around since the beginning of time. In 2012, there are careers built around this epicaricacy. It is difficult to turn on the TV, radio, or computer without coming across this slithering kind of joy. It may have been the fault of the soap opera, bringing us crafted stories of ridiculous drama in people’s lives that we could watch and feel better about our own lives. I enjoy a few soap operas. The need to see more, more, and more has grown exponentially. We need it to be ‘real’ now. Well, what we want to call real.
Our society has come to believe that reality is now not reality. The advent of Reality TV has brought contrived reality to the masses. Professional Wrestling has always had a cult following. Everyone knows that the dramas and most fights aren’t really real, but they pretend they are so we can enjoy some schadenfreude and root for the good guy. We have stopped rooting for the good guy. Somewhere along the line, we began to enjoy the pain and humiliation the bad guy inflicted upon his opponent more than seeing evil defeated. Part of that may be that we stopped seeing the good guy as a good guy and someone that is really flawed and therefore fair game.
People are willing to prostrate themselves to the gnarling masses for a variety of reasons. I always wondered why people would agree to appear on the Jerry Springer Show. I think a lot of them enjoy the ‘moment of fame’ as they see it. I also think that some of them are desperate to find some kind of help, and have no where else to turn. I know several people that just howl in laughter at the people on the show because they have convinced themselves that it can’t be real. I have seen enough in my life to know that those people are real and a majority of the stories and issues are likely real.
I worked with people living with developmental disabilities for quite a few years. Anyone that has seen people that choose to live on their own have seen living conditions, dramas, and ideas that seem surreal to those of us raised in middle-class society. That time brought Maslow’s Heirarchy of Need to life for me. At one point, I had helped a woman go into the hospital for psychological treatment and her husband became very angry with me. I was informed that he had put out a ‘hit’ on me. I was shaken because $40 and a carton of cigarettes in that circle could have been big trouble for me.
Jerry was pretty early in the game. Now everywhere you turn they are out there in different forms. From “Jon and Kate Plus Eight”, “TMZ”, and I even consider “Big Brother” forms of our need for epicaricacy. What has sickened me recently is the epicaricacy over Nadya Suleman’s falling into humiliation and degradation. This is a woman that has been assisted in her psychological delusions by medical professionals by allowing her to procreate beyond reason. Now, in her desperation to care for the children she now has, she finds that her option to make money is based upon a certain segment of the populations’ desire to see her literally prostrate before them. She has started to venture into pornography and public stripping to try to make money to support her children. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see the future in this case. She will eventually lose the ability to care for her children, they will be removed from her care and she will further slide until we hear about her final throes.
Until that time, she will be comedic and voyeuristic fodder. Fodder. An appropriate word to use here. She and others like her are used up to feed society’s joy of evil. Evil for evil’s sake and evil done to others. I am afraid we are near a societal collapse that I don’t want to be around to see.