Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Schadenfreude

For some reason it seems like SCHADENFREUDE, the German word for "Joy at someone else's misfortune" has been on the tip of a lot of tongues lately. Who better than the Germans to create a word that gives dimension to NA NA NA NA NA. However, while there are those who think that only the Germans could come up with a word to describe the thrill of watching Donald Trump declare bankruptcy again, it turns out that even Scandanavian countries have words for the same thing, according to Wikipedia. On the other hand, only a Teutonic mind could wrap itself around donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän.

A local paper here devoted an entire humor column to the subject of SCHADENFREUDE. What I found most amusing is that anyone could possibly think that SCHADENFREUDE might make an appropriate topic for humor. It feels like laughing during a funeral service to me.


But perhaps I reacted prematurely. This morning we learn that a government lawyer in the only case against a 9-11 hijacker -- since the rest are dead -- has committed an egregious act of stupidity. Apparently she improperly coached witnesses by emailing opening statements and trial testimony to them. She did this even after strict instructions from the judge against it.

Not content with improper coaching, this renegade also offered up her own opinions of the case, including harsh criticism of the government's position and theory of the prosecution. She went so far as to convey her considered opinion on how and what she would have said differently in the opening statements.


Now the government will probably have to settle for life in prison without parole and no longer have the option of exercising the death penalty, much to the chagrin of vengeance minded relatives of 9-11 victims. Sorry, I meant to say CLOSURE.

The lawyer involved, whose resignation will be requested shortly, I imagine, will soon discover that her career path has been diverted if not brought to an end. Like the neophyte female attorney who dissed the job offer she received from a partner at a law firm and foundher rude email correspondence to him posted across the country, if not the world, by her disgruntled suitor. No doubt ending her career before she had one.

The question becomes, how would SCHADENFEUDE apply here? I'm sure there are members of Al Quaeda who think it would apply across the board as far as the government's misfortune is concerned.

But for me personally, on closer inspection, the government is merely collateral damage. The SCHADENFREUDE, if appplicable, belongs to the lawyer who must have assumed she was operating in a vacuum of sorts, protected from the consequences of her actions. I work for the government; you can't touch me! is how her business card reads, I believe.

The unbridled arrogance of what she did should therefore make her upcoming misfortune all the more joyful. The government's embarrassment is just the unfortunate fallout from her behavior.

But having firmly affixed the blame so that SCHADENFREUDE can be used correctly in a sentence, I still can't fully embrace it even for that idiotic attorney. It makes me uncomfortable. I guess I don't like gloating at someone's fall from grace. Even if it seems like they absolutely positively deserve it. Perhaps, because I have often felt like I was teetering on a similar precipice myself. Or could it be that so often the fall isn't as catstrophic as we might like, but cushioned by infusions of cash and connections. For instance, I would seek death for the Enron guys. With that off the table, anything else pales by comparison.

So I do not practice SCHADENFREUDE. In fact, my very first concern for that unfortunate woman, when I heard what a hinky maneuver she pulled, was whether or not she was blond.

5 comments:

dr1hguy said...

Hard-core schadenfreude gourmands can find an especially lavish smorgasbord at The Darwin Awards (slogan: We salute the improvement of the human genome
by honoring those who remove themselves from it): http://www.darwinawards.com/

Teasers for the 2005 Awards include:
*Death by Lava Lamp
*Why even trained professionals don't play with bayonets.
*Chimney Cleaning Grenade
*"He happened to have the perfect object. It was heavy yet compact, and best of all, it was made of metal, so he could weld it to the chain..." Plug Me In! "Because it was old and rusty, Nguyen said it couldn't explode. Nyugen was wrong..."

jevanslink said...

Someone once said, "Comedy is tragedy with the passage of time."  The Darwin Awards dispensed with the time element, invoking schadenfreude.  Mrs. L  

elleme2 said...

Schadenfruede is a word I've only recently added to my vocabulary.  For decades I'd searched to find the right words to describe the sickening way one family member reacts to other people's misfortunes and there it was all along, all wrapped up in a single expressive, impressive word.  Schadenfruede says it all.

I share your astonishment at the actions of the FAA attorney,  Bad enough to blatantly defy the judge's order about coaching, but then to put it all in writing is the heighth of stupidity and/or arrogance.  How did she make it through law school?  But if the result is the elimination of the death penalty option, maybe she's just the instrument of a more sensible Guiding Hand.  Moussaoui did not participate in 9/11.  He was not the 20th hijacker as many assume.  That guy never even made it into the US.  Moussaoui is accused of knowing about the 9/11 plans and not telling authorities.  Not spilling the beans when interrogated may deserve some kind of punishment, but it hardly warrants the death penalty.
P.S.  If she was blonde, I doubt that she was Legally Blonde

dafyddhevans said...

If you're enjoying contemplating Danube steamship company captains or the absurdity of modern regulation, you might also want to consider "Rinderkennzeichnungs- und Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz."  The "cattle marking and beef labeling supervision duties delegation law" from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.  The name of the law was eventually changed to "Gesetz zur Übertragung der Aufgaben für die Überwachung der Rinderkennzeichnung und Rindfleischetikettierung."  See http://mv.juris.de/mv/RkReUeAUeG_MV_rahmen.htm.  Perhaps the government lawyer could retool as a Mecklenburger Cattle Marking and Beef Labeling Supervision Duties Delegation Lawyer.  Or, more colloquially, ein "Mecklenbourgischerinderkennzeichnungs- und Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetzrechtsanwalt?"

bosoxblue6993w said...

the 9/11 case has all the earmarks of a mistrial